BARTLETT, TN (WMC TV) - Process servers evicted a man in breach of a lease contract on a home where he had been living rent free for a month.
Charlie Fineberg of Mid-South Subpoena Service served a writ of possession on Steven Hale, ordering him to vacate 5032 Thornebrook Cove. Hale and his family waited outside while a crew removed their furniture, appliances and belongings from the home owned by Kristi Myers.
"It never was my intention to do anything improper or illegal," said Hale. "I have nothing but respect for Ms. Myers."
"He set this whole thing up," said Myers. "He changed the utilities two weeks before he moved in here. He knew exactly what he was doing."
Hale forced process servers to forcibly evict him when he did not voluntarily leave under a court order.
Nov. 24, Judge Phyllis Gardner of Shelby County General Sessions Court found Hale in breach of contract and ordered him to leave the house within 10 days and pay Myers $1,400.
"Mr. Hale, what you did was wrong," Gardner admonished Hale from the bench. "It was wrong in the eyes of the law."
Myers's house is for sale. Last month, she entered into a lease-purchase agreement with Hale. Hale understood he would have to pay a $3,500 security deposit; first month's rent of $1,400; and $500 earnest money by Nov. 1.
According to testimony and records, Hale issued two checks to his real estate agent, one for the rent and another for the earnest money. The bank rejected both "...due to insufficient funds." Myers's lease-purchase document stated in the event of insufficient funds, she reserved the right to cancel the deal.
By Hale's own admission in court, he didn't have the money.
"No sir, I did not, and I should have," Hale testified under questioning by Myers's lawyer.
But that didn't stop him from moving in Nov. 1.
Myers, who has relocated to Florida, said she received a frantic call from one of her former neighbors Nov. 1. She said her neighbor told her Hale and his wife Rochelle were moving furniture and appliances into the house.
Hale did not have the keys, but according to court testimony, he obtained the code to the lockbox on the front door.
"Yes, ma'am, I did (give him the code)," testified Hale's real estate agent, Charyl Dew of Crye-Leike Realtors. "He said, 'I did something silly. I left my day-timer in there.'"
"He got the lockbox number from the real estate agent," said Myers. "He hasn't paid anything. How could he do this?"
It's not the first time.
Court records reveal Hale did the same thing at a Cordova, TN, property: 1204 Breezy Valley Drive. Hale had been renting the home from Andrew Kee of Kee Property Management.
Kee told the Action News 5 Investigators Hale stopped paying rent from June of this year to October. When we visited the property, some of Hale's possessions were still stacked in the front yard after what Kee described as a brutal court battle.
"Basically, two months of court proceedings and fighting the system, and then he voluntarily moved out at the end of October," said Kee.
Less than a week later, Hale breached the lockbox on Myers's house.
"He stole my house," said Myers.
According to Shelby County criminal court records, Hale has a pending misdemeanor charge for driving under a suspended license. He awaits a court date next month.
Records also show he has a rap sheet dating back to 1997. He carries misdemeanor convictions for assault, DUI, resisting arrest, credit card fraud and violation of probation.
Hale testified he'd borrowed against his 401k retirement plan to pay Myers, but the money came too late.
His lawyer Paul Billings said Hale now has the money and is willing to honor the contract.
"It's not a 'squatting' situation. He wants to pay for the property. (Myers) just won't accept it," said Billings.
Myers testified that Hale clearly demonstrated an inability to pay, so she didn't want to deal with him anymore. She said she plans to lease the home to her grown children.
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