Stop Greedy Landlords from Making Family Homeless

Sorry I know this is long, I just wanted to include all of the information so everyone knows the full story and why I am terrified for the future of my four kids. I feel overwhelmed and powerless because of the amount of money it could cost to defend myself from these people.

My father and stepmother (at the time) decided to help us out with purchasing a house because my husband and I had poor credit and an extremely low income and were unable to afford local apartments. We were lucky enough to buy a foreclosed house for cheap and my husband cashed out his 401k and provided $10,000 for a down payment for the house which my stepmother then contributed another $13,000 with an inheritance she received from the sale of her deceased father’s house.

A short time after the purchase of this house she and my father divorced and he allowed her to keep their entire 401k (legally she was required to split it with him and he would have received $25,000) if she would take over this house and assume the responsibility of continuing the contract with us. In essence, she was paid $25,000 to deal with the whole situation.

We got on very well and maintained a good relationship with her, after all she had been married to my father for sixteen years and had come into my life when I was 11 years old. She even had my firstborn son listed as her grandson still on Facebook.

A couple of years passed and my stepmother and her new husband wanted us to sign a new contract that they had drawn up to “protect both parties” which we did. The contract stated many standard things, such as when the rent is due, but also had special stipulations since this was more of a rent-to-own type of situation. Some of these special provisions were that all of the payments made would be equally to the monthly mortgage payment, no more, that all of the principle that was paid down would credited to us, that the intent of the agreement is for us to eventually arrange our own financing and become sole owners, that we have to maintain the house and property, including any repairs, and that the contract would become void once we leave without notice or purchase the property.

Throughout the years we had been cleaning up our credit and had even gotten to the point where we may have been able to begin the process of getting approved for the house and then the government shutdown happened. My husband works for a job that has government contracts that fell through and he ended up being laid off for about three months. Due to that, and because we live so close to the line anyway, we had more things that fell behind and into collections at that time.

This entire time I had been reassured through email, text, and over the phone, over the years, and on multiple occasions that there was no rush, that we could keep any profits from a sale, that they wanted no money from this.

In mid-June I received an email from my stepmother stating that the value of the house had gone way up and we could probably make a great profit if we sold it, about two weeks after that I received an email that stated “I really believe the best course of action for all of us is to sell the house.  It is worth double what we paid for it and you guys could pay off all your bills and have a big down payment to buy something bigger for your family. 

If you refinance then you get the total equity but if we sell I would like at least 25% of the profit and you get 75% of the profits which I believe is a fair and equitable deal considering I have carried the mortgage payments for 7 years.”

For clarification, she was paid $25,000 for “carrying” the mortgage payments that we have made to her every single month. Every time the payment increased, we increased our payment. She refinanced the house in 2017 to get her $13,000 “investment” out and the approximately $4000 cost of that was rolled into the mortgage and we have paid those fees via the mortgage payments, so she has lost nothing via us.

We have also made every major repair to the house, honoring our end of the contract, including two major plumbing repairs in the combined amount of approximately $2500 and installing new flooring and ripping out old carpeting due to mold issues from the subfloor.

After this request from my stepmother I reached out to several banks and was told that our credit was still not good enough to obtain a house loan. Upon learning this I reached out to my stepmother with a heartfelt letter stating my appreciation for her shouldering this for so long and asking her for a little more patience. I explained to her that if they were to proceed with the sale that we would quite literally be left homeless. We have four children under the age of ten and could not possibly even afford an apartment, let alone a higher house payment.

I laid out an eight month plan wherein we would obtain credit repair services and using our pending tax return (it was delayed due to the covid shutdowns) to pay off items in collections and then use next year’s tax return as a down payment. I explained that my husband had gotten a second job for the express purpose of being able to pay off more of our debt and save of money for a down payment (something he was previously unable to due because of conflict with my school schedule).

The response we got from her husband was not kindly and she would not answer my phone calls or communicate with me anymore, everything from then on came from him.

We got the response that, in essence, we had only four options, we could do the eight month plan with the caveat that if we didn’t get it done by the end of the eight months they could kick us out, sell the house, keep 25% of the profits, and in the meantime our rent would rise by $200 every month.

Our second option would be to purchase the house for they buyout of the mortgage plus 20% more for them and we would have to give them a qualifying letter within 5 weeks and the payment would go up by $200 a month

Our third option was that they sell the house, they keep 20%, our rent goes up by $200 a month until it sells, and that all closing costs, repairs for damages, realtor fees, and fees for inspections come out of our portions of any profits.

Our fourth option was to leave immediately, and they will sell the house and keep everything even our $10,000 deposit.

We were told that if we did not respond with a choice of one of those option by July 20th (5 business days) they would list the house immediately, sell it, and keep everything for themselves.

At this point we spoke to a lawyer who wrote a cease and desist letter since they were trying to break their own contract. This entire thing has already cost us about $700 in legal fees. Yesterday we were served with a lawsuit basically saying they are trying to get around the eviction moratorium by demanding a forced sale and evicting us that way. We will incur more legal fees just to defend this now and if it goes to trial we will need $5,000-$10,000 for court costs and attorney fees, $5,000 of which the attorney requires up front as a retainer fee.

The main point of the entire purchase of this house was to help up get established with our family because we were poor, and having a very hard time. My stepmother and her husband have a combined income that is probably around 4x our yearly income. We live on about 40k a year before taxes and they want to take as much as they can from us, even though they don’t need it. They live in a nice big house in Alaska that they are currently renovating, and even paid off her son’s house completely for him. They are not in any way hurting for money, they’re just plain greedy.


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Heather Poindexter 
Maple Falls, WA
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