SENIOR SAFETY WARNING-- MOM SHARES HER HOME WITH A ROOMMATE

by Attorney Margaret Norman:
    111 N. Sepulveda Blvd Ste 355
    Manhattan Beach, CA 90266-6850
    310-675-8888

There is never a dull moment in Los Angeles Superior Court! Yesterday a petite lady over 65 was requesting a restraining order against a woman who had rented a room in her home, and the woman's boyfriend. I'm not sure why the case was heard in Probate Court unless it was an elder abuse case. I was there on one of my conservatorship cases.

The landlady, Mrs. G. had answered an ad on Craigslist® from someone seeking a room. The ad stated that "a quiet, respectful, religious female student wants to rent a room, and would pay $600 a month."

Mrs. G thought that it would be nice to have the additional income, and she testified that she had a lovely home. She contacted the "student" who showed up and convinced her to rent the room immediately and gave her cash for 2 months in advance.

Its hard to imagine how the "student" could have managed to look like someone you would want in your home. She appeared in court with about 8 platinum braids entwined and hanging from her hair which was red. She was almost 6 feet tall and had a loud, aggressive voice. Its hard to tell whether she was over 45 or had simply led a hard life. Her boyfriend had wild, dirty looking hair, unwashed clothes and must have been over 50. This is a couple that you would not want in an elevator with you, certainly not in your home.

When the judge asked the student where she went to school -the response was vague. It is clear that Mrs. G did not get an application from the tenant, she did not credit check or ask for references.

From the testimony it appeared that this tenant brought in a noisy dog, got into arguments with Mrs. G., used the entire house and physically beat her. The tenant and the boyfriend mistreated her cats by picking them up and dropping them. Mrs. G called the police who were helpful but could not make the tenant move. Mrs. G stated that she spent much of her time in her bedroom with the door locked because she was afraid. The police suggested getting a restraining order.

The couple argued against the restraining order. They claimed Mrs. G was imagining the whole thing, and they were wonderful people. The boyfriend claimed he was hardly ever visiting his girlfriend, and had accidentally bumped into Mrs. G.and didn't intend to hurt her. He had no idea how she got bruises. They argued for a long time against a restraining order, their voices getting louder and louder. The Judge listened patiently, then granted the restraining order for a year, and made sure it was served on them immediately.

After listening to the couple, I think Mrs. G was lucky that she is alive. I hope she changed the locks on her house the minute these people got their stuff out.

Every so often I prepare a will or trust for a client whose adult children think that Mom or Dad should not be alone in their large home. They think that the parent should get a roommate, who would be company for them. The daughter or son imagine that some nice, older lady could move in with Mom, pay $500 a month and they could share meals and go to church together. I can only hope Mom or Dad is not as naive as their children.

One of my clients does share her home with roommates. She is realistic enough to know that a nice, older lady is not the most likely tenant. Most often her roommate is somebody who is new to the city who cannot afford to rent an apartment and pay utilities. Sometimes it's a person who travels a lot and doesn't want the bother of an entire apartment. She often has male roommates, one of them is a pilot. She claims they aren't home much and mind their own business.

She runs her own ad. Nobody moves in until she credit checks them, verifies where they work, and where they lived last. She wants to see pay checks. A prospective roommate fills out an application and it is checked. She has rules, does not allow pets or overnight guests. There are locks on the bedroom doors. They share the kitchen but each person buys their own food and keeps it separate, because this isn't a family. It is a business like arrangement.

If the prospective tenant has some sad story about losing everything in a fire and has no references or identification, she just says goodbye. Some of the worst tenants are very charming when applying. Sometimes they have stories that make you feel sorry for them. They have to lie because they don't have a good work record or background. They could be fresh out of prison, or flunked an anger management class. Remember, the lady with the platinum braids is looking for a new place to live and she would not be telling you about Mrs. G., and the restraining order.

© January 5, 2013 Margaret Norman