Illegal Eviction: how it happened and my plea for local help
Posted by JoAnn Skains on June 13, 1996 at 19:05:44:
This is a copy of the document I e-mailed to all the e-mail addresses for the Missouri State Attorney General's office I could find, roughly about 32.
This message is intended to be directed towards the Attorney General for the state of Missouri, so if you receive this and are not the addressee please forward it to him. I have used an e-mail list from the web, when I typed in my query I had expected a single address, so am hoping all these others are just bonus attempts to keep this from being a shot in the dark.
Having reached wit's end, the twilight zone between content and despair, I am reaching out to you in the humblest humane way, to seek your wisdom. Although this may seem like a futile attempt to get answers to trivial matters easily, I assure you I have spent countless hours for the last two and a half weeks (since the Sat. before Easter Sunday, April 6th - to the present date) researching the issues in concern looking through all of the statutes of Missouri laws concerning the tenant / landlord issues, and also by playing phone tag with the local sheriff's criminal department & civil department, which has currently suggested that I contact the local attorney general's office.
I know this is probably the least of your worries but as I meant to imply previously, I am in dire need of legal advice and direction. For I have recently experienced what is defined as an illegal eviction by the federal laws of this land we call "home". The Saturday before Easter Sunday, I came home to a evacuated rental home, my refrigerator was on the front porch and the front door was wide open, after a two and a half week absence. One week starting March 22 Fri.. afternoon to April first was Spring Break and the weekends around it, the rest of the other I spent at an area hotel and at my place of business on the other end of town because of an extremely busy work schedule.
I had avoided going home because my utilities had been shut off for sometime and I had been paying off the debt and saving for the additional deposits they were requiring. I have receipts in excess of 1300.00 that had been paid out to City Utilities, a one bill multi - utility company owned by the city.
Shocked as I was, however I tried to pursue the issue in the best manner possible while still remaining "civil". I examined the house and noted everything had either been packed in the garage, pushed back against the wall, or moved to the garage of the peopleÕs house next door, who incidentally had been hired to "clean out" my place. As I continued to do as I had intended to in the first place, which was get my children's Easter clothes, that had been in their closets since Christmas, I noted the closets had been picked over, with the best gone alltogether. Unable to locate these items among the clothing still in the closets, i went back outside to ask my friend that had driven me over there to help me search. As I explained to her what had happened she said the she had seen exercise equipment like mine in the house next door. At this time the woman from next door, who had been hired to clean the house came over and stated she had been instructed to clean the place out and not let me in, in what was the worst broken English I have ever heard. Noting she didn't speak English, I pursued the conversation in Spanish, much to her relief, since I have spoken Spanish fluently since the age of five. In our Spanish conversing I was able to deduce she was only doing as she had been instructed to do, which was to clean the place out and place all things of value in her garage and for her to call "Ms Barbara" if I came, so she apologized and saw things from my point of view but it was their house they owned it, and she was going to go call "Ms Barbara". As we anticipated their reply from "Ms Barbara" I further examined what was left in the house of my belongings, most of which were broken or being handled carelessly. After a ten minute wait the sheriff's department came out to handle the report, since the address is just outside of the city limits. After they correctly gathered the scenario of what was happening, they told my immigrant neighbors to put everything they had removed from my house, back. Picture about 10 people from ranges of 6 years of age to about 35, making trips back and forth from house to house for about 20 minutes, carrying armfuls every trip. They had my China, my clothes , my exercise equipment (a mountain climbing simulator and a HealthRider), camcorder, tv's , sega, vcr, bass guitar, amp, paint sprayer, my children's toys (the big ones like: a little tykes Kitchen Center, A little tykes mini van, and things I couldn't even distinguish from the distance, where I was standing. Meanwhile the Sheriff's deputies ran a check to see if an eviction had been filed or served for me or this address., which came back negative and remains so as of yesterday April 16th, the last time I have checked. As they were wrapping things up the landlord and the infamous "Ms Barbara" drove up. The deputies then stated that things were out of their hands now and this was a civil matter, and for me to discuss issues further about my things with my landlord and then departed.
Proceeding as told I greeted my landlord as he approached and asked what was going on, he then explained he was unaware of my whereabouts and was Òplanning on having a little garage saleÓ to gather the money owed to him which was a partial payment of the rent for March and now April's rent. He asked what I was doing there. As I explained to him as stated previously of what I'd been up to for the last few weeks. He then further explained he didn't want to keep my things yet he wasn't going to let me have them until he was paid, i then asked why April if he'd moved me out, he then pondered and said it was due and changed the subject and even went on to assure me everything was still there. So I simply said I really hoped it was now, and hoped everything had been returned. He then asked what I meant so I told him that the sheriffÕs dept. had had the people next door bring back everything that was at their house. I also stated I would like to know why things had been moved next door in the first place, to this he commented something along the line of he didnÕt know, and his wife added Òthey had to be cleaned upÓ. ÒEven the new clothes, that still had tags on them?Ó I questioned. They then assured me everything that was hanging in the closets was still there, and that they hadnÕt been moved.and even offered to let me in to get them. Thus , I informed him otherwise, and stated some things were in the closet but a lot of things werenÕt, like what I had come to pick up in the first place, our Easter clothes. I went on to tell him I had checked all of the closets, and that they werenÕt there. He then seemed annoyed and asked how had I gotten in. I told him through the front door. He then asked who had let me in. I went on to tell him , I had let myself in, the front door was wide open, my refrigerator was on the porch and I had gone in to see what in the hell was going on. To this statement he seemed appalled. and even looked around searchingly. I then asked if he was going to lock the place up and get the key back from the neighbor woman. He seemed rather alarmed that I knew she had a key, and went to get it from her. After a few minutes he returned to tell me he would lock it up. As I backed off and went to talk to my friend and reassure my children everything was okay, and weÕd still have Easter Sunday, the woman from next door came up to ask me if she could use my key to get the one she had, she had left the one she had inside, she had placed it on the counter while she was in there cleaning. I then handed her my set of keys, by the one to open the front door or the garage door. As she walked off with them the landlord asked her what she was doing. I then answered for her knowing the poor woman has to grasp for words in order to answer in English. So I told him she had gone inside to get the key she had , and that she had left it on the counter. He then yelled out to her that that one wouldnÕt work, because he had changed the locks. I then asked him what? why? and decided to leave after getting back the house key I had. I departed by simply telling him he would hear from me or my attorney on the following Monday. Well needless to say our depression settled in and we were late getting back, not really having a destination to get back to as of yet. However we had to return to open our business as usual, in order to generate some cash. Late Monday evening I faxed our attorney we had on retainer for traffic tickets, a brief description of what was going on. Early Tuesday morning I called him to see if he had gotten the fax, he told me he had but didnÕt know who it was from, IÕd forgotten to sign it. I told him anything was possible with as much as IÕd had on my mind lately. Being the straight forward honest, just lawyer he is, he openly told me he wasnÕt very up on real estate laws but he would refer me to a firm who was. And he did, trusting his judgment I hired them, or at least got someone in their firm on retainer . As to date this lawyer has informed my landlord of our intentions and demands. Which were my agreement to pay the $400 I owed in back rent and retrieve all of my things, stressing the ÒallÓ part. He then retaliated by saying he wanted the $400, And AprilÕs rent $595, for a total of $995 before I could get my things and he wasnÕt responsible for the things that he had noted were missing, a TV, a vcr, & the HealthRider. I refused his offer and told my lawyer no way! I then inquired about my security deposit. The landlord said that amout wasnÕt in question, it had been applied towards damages. My lawyer then advised me that it would be in my best interest to accept his offer, get my things accept my losses, and then maybe take him to court later on. He went on to suggest that I should think it over and go this route and that it would be in my best interest to do so and retrieve what was left of my stuff, before more was gone. I was astounded and wondered what had happened to our country? and were we still using the US Constitution for a government system, and was my landlord immune to the guidelines for the privacy acts. Was it not a violation by the statutes of Missouri law concerning landlord/tenants rights, as stated in the updated version for 1995 in Chapter 534, under the definitions of Òforced entry and detainerÓ, Òunlawful detainerÓ not to mention the criteria concerning illegal eviction, & privacy did he not have to comply to any of these laws? My lawyer then asked me to think it over for a couple of days.
Having serious doubts about my rights as a citizen, I then took it upon myself to find out where I stood and went surfing , and surf I did, the net that is everywhere,f rom the Fair Housing Administration to the Tenants Net to the Library of Congress, and others to numerous to mention. On the majority or rather all of the ones I e-mailed recommended I file charges for breaking and entry and illegal eviction and told me to hire an attorney if I hadnÕt already. When I relayed all this to my lawyer , I added I had already tried to press charges but had been transferred from department to department down at the sheriffÕs office, which I had, only to finally be told that I needed to contact the attorney generalÕs office, the following day since it was after five. The following day I called my lawyer. And this is where we are at now, I was calling him for direction, he hesitated for a minute then said yes, it would be a good place to start but I should probably go see the prosecuting attorney first, and gave me the name of a contact he had there.
Well this is now a day after that phone call (April 18, 1996), ............12 days since I first became aware of our not having access to a home, we had not been evicted from, I have not been there since that evening on the 6th of April. At this point my funds are starting to dwindle, having to shell out $38.95 to $ 53.00 a day depending on which motel has vacancies to accommodate a family of four, can really drain you financially. My children need the stability of a home, and have every right to one, since they too were victim to this Òillegal evictionÓ.
I do not seek charity nor welfare, for I know IÕll have enough saved up in a week or so to rent some form of cheap housing & the security deposits required to do so. However it may take longer yet to furnish it, at least with the basics like dishes and bedding and only hope itÕll come with the basic appliances like a refrigerator and stove.
IÕm in the progress of trying to recall what was inside of my home for my attorney, but may not be able to recall everything since the majority of my records were stored on some 44MB removable Syquest disks that were inside of the house.
Where do I go from here? All I ask is that you please help me on the path to pursuing this issue in the appropriate just manner.
Sincerely, Jo Ann Skains
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