A San Fernando Valley man who purchased a million dollar home nearly a year ago has so far been unable to move in because a tenant changed the locks and is accused of illegally leasing out rooms in the house to others.
Police told the new homeowner that he can't enter his home, even though he continues to pay the mortgage and the utilities. The tenant insists that she has a legal right to live there, though according to the owner, she's never paid him a dime in rent.
"It feels like it's surreal," said the home's owner Jason Reid. "What a ridiculous scenario."
When Reid purchased the home last summer, he said he was told that there was a tenant in the house who was refusing to leave.
According to court documents, the tenant had answered an ad on Craigslist to care for the 4-year-old child of the woman who previously owned the home and was dying of cancer. Within weeks of the tenant moving in, though, the previous homeowner was hospitalized and soon died, but the tenant refused to move out.
"We are almost two years after her labor agreement was over, and she is still residing in the home," Lizette Alvarado, one of Reid's attorneys said.
According to court documents, the tenant is now renting out rooms to strangers and calling herself the landlord, even thought Reid's name is the only name on the deed.
"She gave me a lease and said, 'I am the homeowner. I am the landlord. I am on the title,'" Ani Ambarchyan, a subtenant at the home, said.
Ambarchyan said she agreed to pay $1,200 a month to rent a room in the house after answering an ad on Craigslist back in January. She also said the tenant told her she was the owner of the home. The tenant even listed herself as landlord on the lease.
"It looked so legit," Ambarchyan said.
According to a declaration, another subtenant, who was paying $1,100 a month, said there were six other subtenants renting rooms in the house when he was there.
"So, she's collecting all that rent," Reid said.
Asked who is paying the mortgage and the utilities, Reid simply raised his hand, indicating that he was.
Alvarado said she has tried for months, unsuccessfully, to get the tenant out of her client's home.
"Well, she is very skilled at the legal process. I am surprised myself, most people out of law school who just passed the bar can't do what this woman did," Alvarado said.
In an email, back in November, the tenant told Reid's attorney that if she wants her out, "The bottom number stands at 35K."
Reid said that he can longer enter the home he owns because the tenant changed the locks.
"The police have informed me that should he go in with a locksmith, break those locks and enter, that he would be the one arrested," Alvarado said.
Reid said he's afraid what the tenant may do. She has sent emails saying she has "guns in the house" and that he could be harmed if he enters the property, writing "accidents do happen when strangers come into the home" and that Reid could end up in "the ICU."
Reid said he is also concerned about the subtenants paying rent to her.
"My biggest concern is that something tragic will happen inside the house at some point," he said.
In text messages to one of the subtenants, the tenant talks about trying to get another subtenant out by filing a restraining order against him. The tenant writes, "I'm going to bruise my face. Serious." She goes on to say, "I went to urgent care to get a note and smeared lipstick all over my eye lol. Pinched my cheeks hard."
Reid has filed a police report for forgery, claiming the tenant broke the law by signing leases as the landlord of the property. The LAPD detective handling the case said in an email that he is working on handing it over to the district attorney to potentially press charges against the tenant.
"I am doing everything I can legally to stop this and yet I feel helpless," Reid said.
Within the last week, there was a big development in the case. A judge granted the homeowner a three-year restraining order against the tenant. She cannot come within 100 yards of him and she cannot come within 100 yards of his home.
Reid's plans now are to work with the subtenants directly to get them to move out, so he can finally move into his home, almost a year after he purchased it.
CBSLA did reach out to the tenant for her side of the story. She said she was being targeted because of her race and believed Reid will lose his eviction case against her, adding that she is legally subletting out portions of his house.
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