It was the kind of conversation, so sad and frustrating, that it leaves a reporter’s head buzzing for the rest of the day.

On the other end of the line this day was a 75-year-old lady named Ann, a career nurse, a soup kitchen volunteer and woman who recently lost a son to tragedy.

Ann lives in Camden, but she and her 77-year-old husband rent a small, single-family home in Minot for the extra income. And in that home lives a young lady who rented the house in December 2021 and who has been there since.

You probably see where this going, because the news has been plentiful of late, with stories about landlords desperately trying to evict tenants and running into legal roadblocks at every turn.

Ann is now one of those landlords and when she describes her monthslong ordeal, she does so with a voice that breaks frequently with emotion. The frustration, the financial ruin, the unfairness of it all.

Ann is a woman who is quickly losing her faith in the sense of fairness that has always guided her.


The facts are these: According to Ann and her husband, William, their tenant stopped paying rent many months ago, claiming she was awaiting a court settlement after a car crash in 2020.

Ann said her tenant also ruined the home’s septic system, destroyed the fireplace, sublet a room in the home without permission, changed all the locks and flat out refuses to leave.

When Ann told her story, it was in the high, frantic voice of one who has reached the end of her rope and now just dangles there, praying for someone to listen to her.

“I’ve lost all my faith in humanity,” she said. “I’m a nurse of 35 years. I volunteer at the soup kitchen; I do everything right. And now you come across somebody like this and you can’t get around them. I’ve called everybody, but nobody cares. Nobody wants to help.”

Last year, Ann and her husband paid $10,000 for repairs on the septic system at their property in Minot. They suspect their tenant flushed cat litter down the drain.

“And she never even told us she has two dogs and two cats living there,” Ann said.


She said her tenant lied to a homeowner’s insurance agent, claiming she owned the home, and nearly got Ann’s policy canceled.

In spite of receiving fuel assistance and other government benefits, Ann said, her tenant let the heating oil tank run dry. The result of that was more money paid by Ann and her husband to have the furnace serviced.

It’s been a horror, Ann is pretty clear about that. Attempts to evict the tenant have so far proven their tenant to be the classic unmovable object.

They called police, and twice paid $50 for a civil servant to serve the tenant with eviction notices. But of course, police can’t do anything much at all in those situations because agreements between tenant and landlord are civil matters that have to be addressed in court.

Ann has nothing much good to say about Lewiston District Court, either, or the legal system she feels goes too far to protect the tenant in circumstances like these.

Oh, they went to court all right. By then, the tenant arranged for a lawyer from Pine Tree Legal, which provides legal representation to tenants for free.


Ann and her husband went through the legal system, but it wasn’t pretty. To hear Ann tell it, they got chewed up and spit out by a tenant who knows how to play the system much more deftly than these two older folks.

“At the court in Lewiston, they don’t tell you that you have to be your own lawyer,” Ann said. “My husband got up at 4 in the morning to go over there. He didn’t know what he was supposed to do. He just stood there not knowing what to say and they ruled in this lady’s favor. She got herself a Pine Tree lawyer who just destroyed us.”

She’s mad at her tenant, sure. But she’s also mad at the whole legal system where her experience in court felt more like an ambush than a fair hearing.

“They never told us anything going into it,” Ann said. “You get more information on a cereal box about how to protect yourself. We had to get a lawyer and the lawyer just said, ‘I don’t think we should do anything because it’s going to cost a lot of money.'”

Ann called the Attorney General’s Office for help. No help was given.

She called the IRS but got nowhere.


Beat down by the whole process of trying to evict a tenant she calls “a pathological liar,” Ann even tried contacting a group that specializes in protecting the elderly from abuse.

The group could do nothing for her.

At times, as Ann talks about it, you can hear a sense of defeat creeping in.

“I’m looking for another country to live in,” she said. “I can’t stand this. I’ve always done the right thing and now there’s a squatter destroying my house and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

In the midst of all of this legal and emotional turmoil, things got even darker for Ann and her husband.

Three weeks ago, at 1 in the morning, a police officer knocked on their door with horrific news. Across the country, in Arizona, their oldest son had shot himself in the head.


When Ann talked about her son’s suicide, all efforts to control her emotions failed. He was a good man, she said, who was having money trouble. He worked three jobs and still couldn’t get ahead.

When Ann thinks of this, it drives her to the edge of madness. She thinks of all of the savings she and her husband have had to sink into the little house in Minot. Tens of thousands of dollars for repairs, with no rent coming in to assuage the losses.

“We just have to kiss that money goodbye,” Ann said. “Money we could have given to our son.”

Again, there is that sense of defeat. Although she described herself as a fighter, she feels like she’s losing the energy to endure much more of this legal battle with a tenant who won’t budge.

“Since I was in first grade, I couldn’t stand bullies,” Ann said. “This woman is a bully.”

Attempts to reach the tenant were unsuccessful. In several Facebook posts, she describes herself as the victim of an overzealous landlord.


“I became a victim of fear through threats and intimidation that has forced me to move much sooner than originally planned,” she wrote April 16. “And I was NOT financially prepared for this.”

She then went on to ask her Facebook friends for help moving a number of items out of the home.

But as far as Ann is concerned, her tenant has no plans to go anywhere. She’s heard those promises before. At one point, an agreement was reached, Ann said, where she and her husband would let the tenant slide on some back rent if she would just leave the property.

Yet the tenant remained and the ordeal just drags on.

As far as Ann is concerned, she’s got herself a squatter in an age where the system has been heavily weighted to protect the rights of squatters.

Maybe if she had deeper pockets, Ann mused, she might be able to hire an expensive, high-powered lawyer capable of moving that immovable object.


But she’s a retired nurse. Her husband is a retired truck driver who has taken on another job so they’ll have extra money coming in. They don’t have the dough for a high-priced lawyer, so they are left to navigate the byzantine court system on their own.

Ann and her husband find themselves in the rental business in dubious times. With homelessness running amok and housing crisis on everybody’s mind, not everybody can muster sympathy for landlords, no matter who’s in the right and who’s in the wrong.

It’s a situation Ann never saw coming. She’s from an age in which property rights were property rights, but now the system is such a jumbled confusion, she has no idea what rights she has at all in this brave new world.

And what’s worse, she can’t find anyone to tell her.

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