Destructive renter drives Golden Valley couple from home

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - Terry and Kathy MacDonald have lived in the same home for 33 years, and rented out their basement bedroom without incident for the past two decades.

But the man who moved in last July has put the MacDonalds through what they call a living nightmare.

In fact, the man has become so destructive and disruptive the MacDonalds decided last week to move into a hotel until the man is gone.

"Two police officers told us, 'Leave. I fear for your life!' That's how potentially violent this guy can be," Terry MacDonald told KARE Thursday.

"We went to the hotel for our own safety, and left him here in our house."

KARE 11 News has decided not to name the tenant because he hasn't been arrested in connection with this behavior or charged with trashing the MacDonald's basement.

But it's clear he has wrecked the place, punching holes in several walls, damaging the fireplace with a hammer, breaking light fixtures, dismantling smoke alarms, and burning holes in the carpet.

The floors are covered with trash, food, cigarette ashes and urine stains. The man also disabled the washer and dryer and attempted to tamper with the gas supply to the water heater pilot light.

"I'm very nervous. I start at sudden noises, and my hands shake," Kathy MacDonald explained.

"I don't want to stay here. I don't want to stay in my own home with him here."

Legal Predicament

The Golden Valley Police have been called to the home on numerous occasions, but have been powerless to remove him due to the protections afforded to people with rental contracts.

"Some are asking me if I'm frustrated with the police, but they have been phenomenal in their support and coming and trying to diffuse situations the best they can," Terry MacDonald said.

"They did arrest him once on a warrant from another case, but he was back here a couple days later."

The McDonalds hired an attorney and began eviction proceedings, but eventually reached an out-of-court settlement.

The MacDonalds agreed to pay the man $950 is he leaves on Nov. 15, rather than staying until the end of the month which he is legally entitled to do.

"He wanted his $450 damage deposit, plus $500," Terry MacDonald said, noting the irony of it all.

If he doesn't leave by 3:00 p.m. on Nov. 15, the MacDonalds can seek a writ of recovery, essentially the paperwork that would allow the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office to physically remove him after another 24 hours.

Disruptive, abusive

Although the rental contract barred drinking and smoking in the room, the MacDonalds say the man has gone on many drunken tirades. In fact on several occasions neighbors lodged noise complaints with the Golden Valley Police, who sent officers to investigate.

The MacDonalds say when they informed the man they wanted him to leave, he started verbally abusing them and threatening to destroy the home.

"He has yelled and screamed, 'You know I'm going to burn this house down before I go'!" Terry said.

The renter has also played loud music, and sang along with some of the lines in a way that seemed menacing to Kathy MacDonald.

"One time he was singing a long with a song, very loudly, saying 'You gonna die! You gonna die!' That's scary to me," she recalled.

When confronted with the conditions of the basement, the man tried to turn the tables on the MacDonalds.

He claimed that he'd been exposed to black mold in the basement, and began to smudge charcoal briquettes on the walls in an effort to support his claim.

The MacDonalds hired a air quality testing company to inspect the basement. The company found it was free of black mold and other harmful mold spores.

"We had to spend $500 for an eight-page report that says what we already knew, which was there was no black mold here," Terry MacDonald said.

According to MacDonald the renter called the report a lie, and began to urinate on the carpet in the basement rec room area.

Roommates vs Tenants

Technically the basement is not an apartment, and the MacDonalds are not landlords.

They're renting a room to the man, and allowing him to use the basement bathroom and laundry room. So the law regards the renter as more of a roommate than a tenant.

On October 1 the MacDonalds notified the man they wanted to end his month-to-month rental contract by Nov. 1, in hopes that would meet the legal 30-day notice requirement.

But they discovered that, by Minnesota law, they would've had to notify him on Sept. 30. So the renter legally could not be forced from their home until Nov. 30.

Terry MacDonald said one the past renters was a released prisoner who had been living in a halfway house before moving into their homes. He ended up being the model renter.

"I get a little sentimental thinking about how he was able to move on from here, and start a new life," MacDonald said.

He now knows his current tenant has previous evictions, and a string of arrests for drunken driving and other encounters with the police and courts.

"My advice to people is to screen your renters and roommates, no matter how what kind of a first impression they make."

But after this experience the MacDonalds say their days of letting a room to strangers is over.


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