Home, sold for $805k in cash-bidding frenzy, comes with "stranger in the basement"

Originally published at: Home, sold for $805k in cash-bidding frenzy, comes with "stranger in the basement" | Boing Boing


What’s the worst that could happen? At least they know the stranger is in the basement, unlike this story.


I can’t believe they couldn’t find a lawyer to handle the eviction pre sale agreeing to be paid from the proceeds.

Not sure how not having a will matters, clearly someone has legal authority to sell the house.

Maybe the owner didn’t want to evict the person or sell the house.

I hope the owner has someone looking out for his interests, financially and his health care.

Everyone, get a will, and more importantly, power of attorney and health care directive with a medical power of attorney. By the time you need it it’s too late.


The answers to all of your questions are in the linked article. However, for anyone who doesn’t want to click on it:

The owner is an elderly man who is currently in the hospital, presumably terminally ill. He allowed a woman who cleaned his home a few years ago to live in his basement, rent free. The man’s family wanted to sell the home before he died so they didn’t end up with a mess on their hands in probate. They could not afford the cost of the eviction process to get rid of the basement dweller, who, again, moved in with the permission of the owner, for no rent, and without a lease. That’s relevant because it makes eviction really difficult. So they just decided to sell it and let the new owner deal with evicting the tenant.

The article also mentions squatter’s rights, which is more accurately called adverse possession. It’s an odd thing to mention because she’s not squatting. She was there with the permission of the owner. Now, presumable, the new owner wants her out, but until they begin the eviction process, she’s not squatting.


OK, I will have to read the article now, dammit. If the owner is the elderly man then he must be selling. How can the family sell sell it? And what mess in probate? Get him to make a will. If he won’t, tough. Did he give them authority to sell it? Presumably he gets the proceeds (as owner) so there will still be probate issues if no will. And so on…

… and of course there is nothing in that article to explain any of the above.


I read the article.

The man’s family wanting to sell is not the same as the man wanting to sell. If he is of sound mind the house can easily be kept out of probate.

But neither article said anything about wanting to avoid probate. If they have the authority to sell then it’s already avoided probate. If the owner is of sound mind to be able to sell then he has the ability to keep it out of probate with a simple will or a quit claim deed or even a trust.

A quick search says you can easily avoid probate in Virginia with a will or trust.

Sorry, but to me it just sounds odd and I hope the owner is represented so his wishes are followed with his finances and his health and it’s is a good example of why everyone should have a will, a power of attorney, and a health care directive with a medical power of attorney.


So much headache could be avoided if the owner had just sold the home to the housekeeper for $10. She’s more “family” than anyone given that she lives there and cleans the place.


The level of bad judgment on the part of the house’s former owner (e.g. letting someone live in his home without any kind of written contract; no will) and the fact that no-one insisted he wise up while he was still able to does not inspire confidence that his surviving family members will be equipped in any way to handle the aftermath of his death smoothly. It will just be more frantic scrambles to close the barn doors after the horses bolted, a lot of wishful thinking, and probably a lot of fighting over who’s entitled to what share of the money.


Replying to both you and @tcg550. I’m making some assumptions, but they’re pretty safe assumptions given the fact that they successfully sold the home. I’m going to assume the man gave someone in his family power of attorney. As far as having a will goes, having a will doesn’t keep things out of probate. I think you’re conflating intestacy with probate. Wills still get probated. There are ways to keep houses out of probate, depending on jurisdiction, but those things require a lawyer, who you would have to pay, and if they can’t afford a lawyer to evict the tenant, they certainly can’t afford a lawyer to change their elderly relative’s estate plan, which might not even be possible if he’s not of sound mind at this point. Selling a home through having power of attorney is one thing. Changing someone’s will isn’t something you can do that way.

There’s also a time issue here. They wanted to get this done before the owner died. Currently, in most areas, there’s a large backlog of eviction cases courts are working through because they were all put on hold during most of the pandemic. Assuming the family had power of attorney, their best option here was to sell the house and let the new owner deal with the eviction. It’s probably what any decent lawyer would have advised them if they sought out a lawyer’s advice, which I’m guessing they did.

ETA: The other thing I just thought about that makes selling now a good idea is the housing market. Prices are way up, but it may very well be a bubble that could burst soon. If they wait until he dies, and then deal with probate, evicting the tenant, etc., by the time they could sell the house, it might not be worth nearly as much.


Which is why there will be a mess if there is no will, whether it is a house-based mess or a proceeds-based mess. (And of course if there is a will, there is still probate to get through, as you say, whatever the estate consists of.)


Free maid?


I feel for the cleaning lady, and hopefully the guy actually leaves her some money in his will after the dust settles. The house itself has some value, even if there wasn’t money beforehand.

This kinda cracks me up because we rented a house in Bethesda MD that had a resident in the basement. Per the landlord, there was a nanny living there part-time as a respite space from where she lived/worked taking care of kids. That was, of course, a lie. There was a whole family of 4 living down there full time in a 1br space with only a mini fridge and a hotplate. Nice folks, and Turkish so their dinner cooking smelled amazing, but it was a bit awkward, and their only emergency escape when a tree fell against their outside door was knocking on our cellar laundry room door.


we used to have a stinky there when we young and cheerful

It is entirely possible that the house HAS to be sold to cover medical expenses not covered by Medicare. If you have any assets left, those have to go first. So it can’t wait until the owner actually dies.


It would be a nice gesture if she’s someone in need, but not knowing anything more than what’s included in the article, do you think he has a moral obligation to leave her money on top of what he’s already done for her? Giving her a place to live rent-free for a period of time is a thing of significant value. Plus it said he offered to let her stay in the basement after cleaning his house, but didn’t say that she was continually acting in the role of a house cleaner. To the contrary, it said “Photos show the kitchen counter strewn with empty bottles” so she probably wasn’t continuing to work in that role.

I’m wondering if it was one of those situations like in the movie The Lady in the Van where someone did a nice thing for someone in need and then it ended up going on much longer than he expected. (Great movie, by the way. Maggie Smith is awesome.)


According to the story there is no will and he’s not in any condition to make a valid one at this point. His heirs basically sold off any obligation he might have felt to her along with the house.

Perhaps the new owners will come to an arrangement with her, but if so it will involve her signing some sort of letter of agreement that would terminate if they sold the house later on.

That’s a good point. Also, the U.S. medical insurance system being what it is, the entire sale price could be eaten away by his end-of-life expenses.


I joked about it but really I wonder if this isn’t just the way things will head as housing prices stay high, supplies stay short, and poor people get poorer. In the past it wasn’t that odd to sell an estate with its… resident staff.


The term “value added service” comes to mind, good luck extricating the person[s] in the basement.


I read the articles that were linked. What’s your evidence for this statement? As far as I can tell, she was a hired cleaning person. Nothing more. From the article is reads that she “convinced him that she needed a place to stay.” For all the evidence we have, it could be that she took advantage of an old guy with declining mental faculties.

There’s no mention in the linked articles of estrangement with his family, or anything negative.

So maybe you could elaborate?


There’s a similar attic-dwelling story (minus murder & adultery) about a Singaporean student who flunked out of UMICH in the 50s and lived in a church attic for four years.