I will be the first to admit I thought I had a handle on residency, i.e. when and how it is established. I am taking excerpts from an article that appeared on April 21, 2009 in a Spokane valley newspaper under the headline:
Unwanted tenants may have moved on
and using it as the basis for this week’s post. Man, this particular scenario had me re-thinking what I thought I already knew.
It was written by Staff writer Shawn Vestal. You can read the entire article here, since I have redacted much of it. Believe me, it is worth the read. I have put my comments after the paragraph in red. That way you’ll know the article from my comments.
An elderly Spokane Valley couple, Don and Peggy Bain, both 81, let Peggy Bain’s son, Skippy Ray Davis, live in their detached garage behind their home. Unbeknownst to the Bains, Davis let a lady named Susan Pierce move in with him. Not only Pierce but several other people.
On the first of April, Davis was arrested and booked into jail for failing to pay fines associated with drug convictions.
So far, nothing out of the ordinary. Mom lets son stay in a garage outfitted as living quarters. Son invites lady friend to stay with him. Probably happens all over America and no one gives it a second thought.
When the Bains tried to enter the garage, they were denied access by Pierce and several other people. They claimed that the garage was their home and the Bains had no right to oust them. Fortunately for the Bains, some of the folks moved out upon being requested to leave the first time.
As you might guess, this is where the problems really started.
The Bains called the cops and were told by the police, “it’s still hers, and you’re not allowed to go in there,” The police stated they were acting under the state Landlord-Tenant Act which is intended to protect people from being thrown out of their homes suddenly and without cause.
I support my local police but I wonder if the on-scene officers were really stating the law as it is written or if they made the immediate decision that doing nothing is better than taking affirmative action like asking for a lease or some other form of rental contract.
Lt. Stephen Jones, of the Spokane Valley Police Department said that Pierce had lived in the garage with Davis and that once a person establishes proof of residence – Pierce showed a piece of mail addressed to her at the garage – the department requires an official eviction proceeding, overseen by a judge, rather than making its own judgments.
This must mean I can say my residence is 1600 Pennsylvania Ave if I have a piece of mail addressed to me at that particular spot. I always to live in a famous house with lots of chefs and staff. Hmmm, I wonder how that would hold up???
Enter the Bains’ attorney, Pete Schweda. He said the case is best viewed not as a landlord-tenant dispute, but as a trespassing or burglary. A landlord-tenant relationship never existed – the people moved in without permission, never paid rent or signed a lease, and simply refused to leave. Under the law, a “tenant” is defined as “any person who is entitled to occupy a dwelling unit primarily for living or dwelling purposes under a rental agreement.”
You and I probably share the same opinion of attorneys as a whole but in Schweda’s case I will make an exception. He probably has a copy of the law that states what it takes to establish residence whereas in the field officers had their opinion firmly in place and refused to act. I don’t know that for sure but I’d bet I’m right.
Pierce has since moved out leaving no forwarding address.
end of story—
I present this abbreviated version because it got me to re-check Nevada’s residency laws. I hope it gets you to re-check your state’s laws. I also hope it gets you to inquire of your local police how they interpret the residency laws. That’s the something you may not know.
I say that because a majority of the problem after the arrest of Davis seems to be centered around police interpretation. If Schweda is correct, the police overstepped their discretion.
Again, I don’t know that for sure. I’m merely stating what I surmise from the statements of all parties. Regardless, it served as a wake up call for me.