Turner tenants sue landlord, claim he rented them house he didn’t own

Posted June 11, 2012, at 11:38 a.m.

AUBURN, Maine — A Turner family is suing a Leeds man claiming he rented them a house that he didn’t own.

John Stetson and Melissa Rollins say they were seeking a rental in December for themselves and their children: two sons, ages 2 and 17, and a 19-year-old daughter. They answered an ad for a house for rent that was posted on the Craigslist website.

They recently filed a complaint in Androscoggin County Superior Court against John Gray.

When the family called the phone number listed in the online ad, Gray answered. He showed the family a four-bedroom house at 64 Bean St. in Turner with a two-car garage during the two weeks following Christmas.

The family signed a one-year lease with Gray on Jan. 6, the complaint said. They paid Gray a security deposit of $500 and a $50 propane fee plus a pet deposit of $250, because their daughter, Brittany, needs a black Labrador service dog for her post-traumatic stress disorder.

They paid $1,000 monthly rent for January, February and March, plus $500 rent for April through direct deposit into an account in the name of the Rebis Agency at Rainbow Federal Credit Union.

According to the attorneys filing the suit on behalf of the family, the Rebis Agency is a Maine business corporation that has a charter that was administratively suspended by the Maine Secretary of State. Gray was listed as clerk/registered agent for the Rebis Agency.

On April 20, a representative from a company named Lockdown appeared at the Turner property. He told Nancy Prescott, Stetson’s sister, that he was going to change the locks on the building. The company said it was hired by Camden National Bank to secure the building and a representative advised the family that the bank was acting on behalf of Maine State Housing Authority to foreclose on the property. That happened before Gray rented the house in January, the family was told, the complaint said.

The bank said the most recent owners of the house were Clifton and Glenice Fournier. The bank said it didn’t know Gray and that he had never been authorized to rent or manage the property, according to the complaint.

For its part, Maine State Housing Authority had secured a foreclosure judgment against the Fourniers in October, the complaint said.

At the time the family leased the house from Gray, it belonged to the MSHA.

Before a scheduled June 6 eviction hearing, the family agreed to MSHA’s eviction judgment. By Friday, the agency hadn’t filed a writ of possession for the property that would have forced the family to leave, a clerk at the 8th District Court in Lewiston said Friday.

In a separate court proceeding shortly after the lawsuit was filed, the family was successful in securing an attachment of Gray’s property and other assets in the amount of $4,300 in the “reasonable likelihood” they would recover judgment against Gray and the Rebis Agency.

The family, represented by attorneys Maureen Boston and Matthew Dyer at Pine Tree Legal Assistance, claim Gray falsely represented himself when he signed a lease with the family.

The family claims it suffered monetary and emotional damages due to what they said was Gray’s fraudulent misrepresentations.

The family is seeking an award of punitive damages as well as attorney’s fees.

In addition, the family claims that state law bars landlords from charging tenants damage deposits for service animals.

Efforts to reach Gray for comment on Friday were unsuccessful.

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