One couple's dream home delayed by real occupants

April 08, 1994|By Peter Hermann and Jody Roesler | Peter Hermann and Jody Roesler,Sun Staff Writers

Walter Isaac and Diane Lindsey can't wait to tear down the ramshackle Pasadena house they bought last week to make room for their red-brick dream home.

There's one small problem -- it's occupied.

Two men, relatives of the former owner, say they have no intention of leaving the single-story ranch house near the Lake Shore Athletic Complex, even though the place has no running water or electricity.

The dispute, only a week old, now involves lawyers and real estate agents and could require court intervention.

Mr. Isaac and Ms. Lindsey are racing against the clock to force out James Baker, 52, and his cousin, Thomas Baker Jr., 26. Mr. Isaac says he is worried that a prolonged legal fight will jeopardize a low-interest government loan that requires him to start building within one month of settlement.

To show they mean business, Mr. Isaac and Ms. Lindsey removed all the doors on the house.

The Bakers hung blankets and sheets over the openings.

The couple had the power shut off Wednesday.

James and Thomas Baker intend to switch to candle power.

James Baker's sister, Philicia Baker, who lives nearby, disputes whether Mr. Isaac owns the property.

She says a complicated family affair involving her 88-year-old uncle, the former owner, raises doubts about the validity of the sale.

She said another relative may have sold the five acres to cover nursing home expenses incurred by her uncle.

Until she is sure, Ms. Baker said she wants her two relatives to stay put.

And she is threatening to block Mr. Isaac and Ms. Lindsey from using Bakers Lane, a private dirt road that leads to the house.

"When you move into a neighborhood, you can't make problems," Ms. Baker said yesterday. "You have to be nice . . . They thought, 'Oh, they are old squatters. We can get them out in a day.' It was unnecessary for them to take the doors off. That's crazy."

But Mr. Isaac, 27, and Ms. Lindsey, 21, say they are fed up and have filed a petition to oust the Bakers. While they wait the two or so weeks it will take to get a court date, Mr. Isaac and Ms. Lindsey complain that they have gotten little support.

"I knew there would be some kind of problem, but I never expected all this," Mr. Isaac said. "Now every time we drive down the road, someone yells that we can't use that property."

The couple says they first looked at the land eight months ago and decided it would be a perfect place to build a house.

They payed $44,000 for the land and got a $61,000 loan to build the house.

They knew that two men were in the old house but said real estate agents assured them that the house would be vacant by closing.

When the couple visited their property last week, they got into an argument with Ms. Baker, the two men and a county police officer, who advised them to get a court order.

The couple said they were misled by real estate agents. Ms. Lindsey said that until yesterday she believed Bakers Lane was a public, rather than private, way because the entrance is marked by a county road sign.

"At first I was upset," she said. "Now I'm mad. I don't want to sue anybody. But if we've been misrepresented, I want someone to pay and I want my money back."

James O'Conor, chairman of O'Conor, Piper and Flynn realty, which represented the seller, said his company approached neighbors to buy the land a year ago, but no one was interested.

"The title company handled everything properly," he said. "They thoroughly researched it, and it's clear the buyer has legal rights to access the property."

The couple's title company is now reviewing the case.

Ms. Baker said her uncle, Isiah Monroe, and his wife, Blanche Monroe, lived in the house for several years.

Blanche Monroe died in 1986, and Mr. Monroe moved into a nursing home three years ago.

James and Thomas Baker moved into the house in 1991, Ms. Baker said.

She was never notified of the sale or shown proof that the money from the sale went to pay the nursing home bills.

But Mr. O'Conor confirmed the arrangement. "The proceeds of the sale will go toward expenses Mr. Monroe has."

Ms. Baker said she is just trying to protect her family's rights.

"Tell Mr. Isaac that I wish luck to him," she said. "If I find that my uncle is getting the money for the nursing home, then no problem."

But to the couple, who has been living with Ms. Lindsey's parents for the past year, the past several months have been a nightmare.

"This is the first time we've bought land," Ms. Lindsey said. "I can't believe this is happening. It seems impossible."

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