Tacoma homeowner says tenant has taken over her property

Oct 29, 2021, 5:32 PM | Updated: Nov 1, 2021, 4:02 pm
tacoma landlord...
Robin Kelly's yard. (MyNorthwest image)
(MyNorthwest image)

For small-time landlords, it is a situation right out of a nightmare — a tenant all but takes over a property, breaking the rules of the rental agreement, trashing the house and yard to the point that the city declares it a nuisance, and refusing to leave even after being served with a notice to vacate. But that is the situation in which one Tacoma landlord says she found herself.

Tacoma homeowner Robin Kelly has rented out her family’s longtime house — which her grandparents bought in the 1960s and she purchased in 1980 — to the same tenant for five years.

At first, things went well. After a while, though, she said that the tenant began breaking not only the rules of the lease, but also city ordinances, such as parking commercial vehicles on the property and on the curb. Then, an abundance of trash — from broken hot tubs to a homemade fire pit and even a broken-down bus — began piling up. There’s also extensive damage to the interior of the house.

“The property has grown to be a great big, huge junkpile. The garage is so full that the garage door could not be shut,” Kelly described. “The trash has come out into the driveway, all the way up to the fencing.”

Lewis County landlords say eviction ban taking away much of income

Late last year, the City of Tacoma declared the property a nuisance and notified Kelly that she, as the owner, would be fined if she did not clean it up. She said that she made numerous attempts to get the renter to clear the trash and tried to help him with it, but was unsuccessful. What those meetings did result in was her fearing for her personal safety.

“I’m afraid of him now,” Kelly said. “I’m afraid to go over there. And the neighbors are afraid of him. I will not go into the house with him by myself.”

When the City of Tacoma showed up to the property for an abatement in September, staffers determined the situation too dangerous to continue with the cleanup efforts and left.

Kelly has sent the renter notices to clean the property or vacate it, and he has told her in writing that he would be out of the house, but still he remains in place. She added that he has not paid rent for over a year, but she has not held him to that because of the pandemic. He has applied for rental assistance, which would have made eviction on the basis of nonpayment of rent not possible during the eviction bridge, though that ends this weekend.

After little success in a search for an attorney, Kelly is at her wit’s end, convinced that the only way to be rid of the situation is to sell the property far below its value.

“I just want my property back,” Kelly said. “Here’s a house that’s been in my family for 60 years.”

City of Tacoma weighs in

People who find themselves in Kelly’s position do not have to let the tenant get away with breaking the rules, said ChiQuata Elder, landlord-tenant coordinator for the City of Tacoma.

“It isn’t like a landlord’s hands are tied,” she stressed.

Even during the eviction bridge, Elder said, landlords have the right to evict a tenant for reasons such as code violations and causing a nuisance.

“There is a provision in the law that says, ‘Because you’re creating that nuisance on the property or the code violation, I’m giving you this amount of time to vacate,'” Elder explained. “And then if they don’t, the landlord still has to go through the court process to get them out.”

Her advice to every mom-and-pop landlord — even those who are not experiencing any problems with renters — is to get an attorney who knows landlord-tenant law like the back of their hand. That knowledge will come in handy in the event that something does go wrong and an eviction becomes the only viable option.

“If you dot all of your Is and cross all of your Ts the correct way, when you get before a judge, they’re going to most likely rule in your favor, so that means you can get your property back all that much sooner,” Elder said. “But you have to know the law.”

And if you want to avoid eviction, Elder said that landlords and tenants can access free mediation through the Pierce County Dialog and Resolution Center. Each county has similar programs set up because of the eviction moratorium.

“The landlord and the tenant always have the right to either mediate things themselves, or they can contact the Center for Dialog and Resolution,” Elder said.

Local News

gas prices...
Bill Kaczaraba

Seattle gas prices continue to rise entering October

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the gas station, Seattle-area prices have surged again.
1 day ago
Frank Sumrall

Bobby Wagner’s tackle of pink-clad protester leads to police report

After dodging guards for a brief moment on the gridiron, Bobby Wagner and Takkarist McKinley took him to the ground.
1 day ago
Mayor Crime...
Bill Kaczaraba

Mayors join forces to fight crime in Snohomish County

Snohomish County mayors are hoping they are stronger together. 15 mayors have joined forces to fight crime in the county.
1 day ago
August Christian Dressel (KIRO 7)...
Briseida Holguin, KIRO 7 News

Man who ran over 68-year-old in Jack in the Box drive-thru sentenced for murder

Dressel pleaded guilty to second-degree murder earlier this year for deliberately running over and killing 68-year-old David Brown in February.
1 day ago
L.B. Gilbert

Police, firefighters on high alert amid series of arsons

Seattle Fire Department officials are saying the fire was a part of a string of other fires in the area that day.
1 day ago
Tacoma ATM robbery...
Darren Dedo

Suspect allegedly shoots, robs victim at Tacoma ATM

Darren Dedo, KIRO Newsradio reporter, covers overnight crime in the Puget Sound region on the morning of Oct. 5.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Tacoma homeowner says tenant has taken over her property