Has this ever happened to you; an uninvited guest shows up at your party and just won’t leave? Well, I’ll tell you about a similar situation, but with a flippin’ angle.
It was November when we won the bid at auction for a 1,200 sqft. brick house. When we went there to take possession, we were in for a surprise.
The first signs that this might not be a quick and happy flip sat right there on the front porch. First, on the far right of their porch, a concrete, 12′ by 3′ job with an eight-foot window at the house, there were two weathered, over-stuffed chairs. Seeing how they were basically collapsing from water damage gave me some concern, but the most ominous sign was beside the front door. To the right of the door was a refrigerator, and from that frig, there was an extension cord running below the entrance door. Portentous, right?
I’m not the type to be easily intimidated by appearances, so while my wife stayed in the car, I walked up and knocked on the front door. I heard some shuffling around and waited. After a few minutes, the door was opened by an old man, about 6’2″, with an oxygen tube running from below his nose to a tank not too far away. The clothes he wore were a bit wrinkled and his shoes showed their age, but he seemed nice enough, so I introduced myself and shook his hand.
He invited me into a front room that is hard to describe, but I’ll show you what I saw from the front door:
Against the wall across from me, there was an old couch covered in clothes, crumpled sheets, and assorted engine parts. The space between that couch and the one to my right should have been about eight feet, but with an end-table between them, more clothes, shoes, two plastic buckets filled with prescription medicines, more engine parts, junk, a space heater, and oxygen concentrator, there really wasn’t any room at all. After he had welcomed me in, he sat on the dilapidated old couch that was in front of that large picture window to the right of the door. It had some sheets and bedspreads crumpled in such a way as to make a fine nest for the old man to sleep in. The picture window behind this couch had vertical patio blinds that allowed him to peep out without giving up his privacy. But that’s just two sides of the room. The clutter on the left side of the room blocked any hope of getting directly from where I stood at the front door to the kitchen. There was a small closet next to the front door, but after that there was a 50″[MF1] High Definition LED TV. This TV sat upon a 4′ high stand that extended about 30” from the wall. Its shelves were filled with boxes of medicine, more auto parts, mail, magazines, forms, and assorted stuff I don’t quite remember. Past that was the entryway to, presumably, a hall or kitchen. I say ‘presumably’ because the entryway was closed off by a couple of overlapping blankets that hung from the ceiling to the floor and were fastened to both sides of the opening. I soon learned that the purpose of this barrier was to keep heat in during the winter (provided by his little space heater) and AC during the summer. On the right wall was a window with his other source of climate control, an old AC unit. Whatever might be in the rest of the house seemed to be secondary to him. After all, with all the conveniences of home right there in his living room and the refrigerator right out the front door, the only other needs he had were to cook and use the restroom. Basically, I had an indigent living in my living room!
While he settled back into his nest, I pushed some articles of clothing to the side and sat down on the arm of the couch across from him. He was congenial. He told me he didn’t get too many visitors and was glad I came around. I kindly explained to him that I now owned his house and that we needed to make arrangements for him to move on. He assured me that I was wrong. He told me that he had a tax debt, so his house could neither be bought nor sold until that was cleared. Since he had neither the means nor intention of clearing a $149,000 tax debt, he figured that meant he could just keep himself comfortable right where he was. Yes, I knew about the tax liens, but I made sure that was resolved in court before I came over to talk. We talked a great deal, but he spent a lot of our time together reminiscing. It was interesting, but I could tell it was half lies on one end and mostly exaggeration on the other, so I took it for what it was worth. From our conversation, however, I learned two important facts: One, his son, the actual owner of the house, had died from cancer a few years back, and, two, his daughters wanted nothing to do with him.
I came by to visit him a few more times and sat on the arm of that couch while I tried to convince him that I, indeed, owned his house. He listened politely enough, but, at the same time, he assured me that he was within his legal rights to stay there, and, because of that fact, he wasn’t budging.
He did, however, hope that I would come back and visit; he enjoyed my company.
Kicking him out turned out to be a much tougher job than I could have predicted. Being November, Thanksgiving was on the horizon, and I couldn’t kick him out during Thanksgiving, so he made it through that month.
During our conversations, he incidentally gave me enough information to contact one of his daughters. She was a professional with a respectable career who lived with her teenaged son just 5-10 miles away. When I finally managed to get her on the phone and explain our dilemma, she told me that she had plenty of room for another person in her house, but then assured me that her father would never be that person. I asked her if she knew how he was living (I never told you about the rest of the house!), and she said no. I told her about my visits and asked her if she’d go by and talk to him. No, she told me, she was deathly afraid of rats. (There weren’t any rats there, so either she was either unaware of that fact, or she was talking about her dad.) I also learned about another daughter who lived somewhere in Virginia, but the local daughter made it clear that the road to Virginia was closed to him. Period.
Over a period of a month or so, I learned a little about the sordid past of my squatter. His sanity was in question as was his character. I let him spend Christmas in the house — after all, who could kick out a poor, old, disabled, and bereaved father from his home on Christmas? And I gave him New Years for the same reason, but there are no major holidays in January, so after Jan. 1, the time for being Mr. Nice Guy was over. Although I was steeled in my purpose, all the legal hoops I had to jump through allowed him to make it through February. Finally, by March 3, I had all legal process completed and the time had come. I had tried everything to get him to move out willingly, but enough was enough.
The court date was in a couple of days, so I went by one last time to try and talk some sense into him. This time, after I knocked, it took him a little longer than usual to get to the door.
I could hear some thumping and scuffling in the room while I waited. Then came some scraping at the door. It gave the impression of a small child, or maybe a lunatic, pawing the door in a vain attempt to escape. Then the doorknob began clicking from repeatedly being turned partially and then released. It was as if the whole effort of turning the knob and opening the door was simply too much for the child (or lunatic).
After several more attempts, he finally got a firm enough hold on the knob to turn it and pull the door back a few inches. Through that small aperture, I could see the reason he struggled so much to open that door. He was on his hands and knees a couple of feet from the door. From where he knelt on the floor, it was a long reach to that knob. It seemed that he could barely find the strength to reach over and turn it. His air hose was hanging askew, and his facial expression was one of a totally desolate and haggard old man.
It was heartbreaking, but still I gently reminded him of our court date. He feebly nodded and shut the door. I thought about the struggle he must have gone through to get to that door and the effort it would take to get back to that pathetic nest in which he slept.
What kind of monster was I?
It so happened that his court date was about a week before mine. When I did come before the judge, I felt like the lowest person on Mankind’s totem pole. I mean, what kind of person kicks a feeble, sick and suffering old man out of his own house?
I stood there, but despite the scum that the judge saw before him, he was very professional about the whole thing. He told me that the old man calmly heard the decision to evacuate and assured the judge that he would go home to gather his belonging and leave. I asked how that sickly old man managed to get there in his horrible condition. I imagined him in a wheelchair with his oxygen tube below his nose and a defeated countenance across his whole being. The judge, however, told me that he had no idea what I was talking about. According to the judge, my sickly and slovenly squatter came before him well dressed, with no oxygen tank, and in apparent good health.
Was he ever incapacitated? Sure, to some degree, but that old man’s purpose from the beginning was to hold off his inevitable eviction for as long as possible.
He held me off for FOUR FLIPPIN’ MONTHS!
And the sucker sign on my forehead had been flashing the whole time.
By the way, following his eviction, the old man moved in with a family in the neighborhood. After one week, they told me, they threw him out. Apparently, the old man managed to insult the owner and the owner’s family past all generosity they had to offer.
I have no idea where he went from there.