KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A judge has ordered an East Tennessee couple to leave a home after the home’s owner claimed they were trespassing.
The couple claims they had paid a month’s rent, a deposit and signed a contract. However, the owner of the home says he doesn’t know the couple. The judge hearing the arguments said it is one of the most unusual cases he’s ever heard.
A hundred-year-old Victorian-style home in North Knoxville is for sale and has been for a while. Despite the hot real estate market, there have been no buyers for the nearly 5000 square foot home and a bungalow behind it. The condition of the house has made it difficult to sell; it’s in need of a lot of repairs. Last March, however, a family moved into the home without the owner’s permission and they won’t leave claiming they have a contract.
“The property is owned by a trust for a woman named Tina Sanders who is in memory care. The trustee is her son Jonathan Farmer,” said Knoxville Attorney Bennett Hischhorn, who represents the home’s owner and trustee.
The home is not for rent and trustee Jonathan Farmer has directed his attorney only to sell the place. Speaking by telephone in court last week, Farmer, the son of the owner, said he does not know the couple living in the home and never met them.
Court documents claim Josh and Christy Faircloth moved into the north Knoxville home nearly three months ago without Farmer’s approval. Two hearings were held in civil court not to evict the alleged trespassers but to legally eject them from the home.
“About two months ago, I get a phone call from a realtor who says, hey, there is someone living in that house. I’m like, no, it is probably the wrong address are you sure you are at the right house? They said, ‘yes, we are at the right house and they sent me a picture.’ Sure enough, there are people living in there,” said Hischhorn.
The couple Christy and Josh Faircloth were sued for trespassing, and for living in the home illegally which they deny.
“We rented the house,” Josh Faircloth said. “The house was rented to us by someone. I don’t know if it was Mr. Farmer or not. But we did pay money, we have a receipt where we paid to live in that home. We’ve got a lease, we have keys to move into that home. We thought we were supposed to be there because we had paid money to be there.”
News Channel 11’s sister station, WATE, asked the Faircloths who they paid during an interview.
“It was supposed to be to a Jonathan Farmer. But apparently, it’s not Jonathan Farmer because Jonathan Farmer is in Texas,” answered Josh.
“So this is the fake lease. It is drafted by Christy Faircloth. It purports to be from them and Jonathan Farmer it gives an address, 1420 Parkwood Drive, with a post office box in Carrollton, but that’s not a real address. although my client does live in Carrollton,” said Hischhorn.
There are three signatures on the lease. One is from Josh Faircloth and the other from his wife.
“I believe that is Christy Faircloth and then this up here is supposed to be Jonathan Farmer, although that is not his signature,” said Hischhorn.
For property owners, it’s not easy to remove someone, so they have to file in court what is called an ejectment. It’s a legal term to recover in civil court the possession of your land or property. Unlike an eviction, there is no landlord-tenant relationship with the person on your property.
“There is a landlord-tenant act and tenants have rights. But trespassers don’t have any rights. So, if you are trying to evict somebody and you don’t have a lease with them, you can’t evict them. You have to eject them,” said Hischhorn.
In his order, Judge Chuck Cerny gave the couple about 24 hours to pack up and leave the home. WATE checked the house in North Knoxville, and the couple has moved away as they said they would.
Since there are allegations that Faircloth and his wife may have committed fraud and caused damage to the home, the judge wants them back in court next week.