Mark Newton appears in court dressed to the nines, as if he is an attorney. He’s not an attorney, but he knows the law well, which has assisted him in his 19 year history of squatting and using a variety of legal strategies to avoid paying rent, while also delaying eviction, thus causing landlords much more expense, stress and time and energy to try to evict him. Look at his face, and remember it. You never want to rent a place to this man.
Search widely online, and you will hardly find a better example of a serial scammer and squatter, as well as a better example of how badly the “justice system” runs, that someone can so easily abuse it, and avoid eviction simply by filing so many complaints, motions, appeals,
Interviews with landlords and neighbors and an examination of court documents reveal a man waging an almost continual war of attrition, fighting one eviction after another for years on end, filing lawsuits, complaints, subpoenas, asking for judge recusals and seeking postponements. He sometimes has many cases going at the same time in different courts, always acting pro se, meaning he is his own “lawyer.”
The Newton system, according to court documents and dozens of interviews with adversaries, goes something like this: The 51-year old Newark man moves his family into an apartment or house, and soon stops paying rent. He then complains about unsavory living conditions that, landlords say, he himself created. At some point, his attack escalates and conditions in the rented apartment or house
worsen, lawyers and landlords say. Newton continues to complain. Next, lawyers and landlords say, he calls code enforcement and accuses landlords of renting substandard housing.
From there, the legal battle is on.
Records from landlord- tenant court show he and his wife have fought at least seven evictions, filing 113 complaints against landlords, neighbors and others in Newark municipal court — some of them multiple complaints against the same person.
What’s more, according to Superior Court records, Newton defends himself at little or no costbecause he applies for — and is granted — indigent status, meaning he doesn’t have to pay to file law complaints that cost $200 a pop and fees associated with his defense.
Property owners should do some form of background check before renting to tenants. Beware that simply asking prospective tenants to list past employers and past landlords, and/or provide references, may not be helpful. Prospective tenants can easily lie and put their friends’ names and contact information down as past employers and landlords. So do a little more screening to protect yourself.
There is information about how to do credit checks available from Nolo Press here.
After checking rental history and credit, you would be well advised to check civil and criminal court records in the areas where the prospective tenant has lived, to look for eviction records and/or any criminal history.
There is an organization called “Do Not Rent To” that keeps a bad tenant database. You can find it here:
This site was created to help landlords determine if a potential renter is a suitable candidate for their property. As landlords we always take risks when renting our properties. However, these risks can be minimized by allowing us to see if a potential renter has been added to the do not rent to list of bad tenants. As landlords we’re obligated to inform other landlords of the problems we have encountered when renting our properties to certain tenants.
However, the site charges landlords $29.99 a year, and it’s not clear how useful the site would be for instance if there are a limited number of landlords and the site only contains a few hundred tenant names, or tenants from only certain parts of the world. But the idea has use if it could catch on and become a large enough database.
Elizabeth Anne Critchley — aka Betty Drake, Elizabeth Anne Drake
The length and slowness of the eviction process made this landlord’s situation much, much worse. This points to need for reform in the eviction process.
Landlord Jim Johnson had to fight for many months to try to evict a woman who turned out to be a career criminal from his rental property after she continually failed to pay rent.
At the end of the process, Johnson was out $12,000 in rent — and swindled out of tens of thousands of dollars more, he says — after leasing his half duplex in Bedford, Nova Scotia, Canada to Elizabeth Anne Critchley in December 2016.
Johnson, who has been a landlord for 40 years, says he felt he did his due diligence when he accepted Critchley as a tenant — checking her references and getting everything in writing.
But what he didn’t do was a criminal record check. What he didn’t know is Critchley — who Go Public found also goes by Betty Drake, Betty Burns and Elizabeth Anne Drake — has a criminal record that dates back more than 25 years and includes more than 120 convictions, many of them for fraud in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Ontario.
“To say we’re financially destroyed is an understatement,” he says.
Johnson says the problems were only compounded by delays in the process to evict Critchley.
He says the system moved so slowly, it allowed her to live in his duplex for three more months without paying a cent.
“The tenancy board, in my opinion, takes care of the tenants and the landlords are on their own.”
Living for free, more crimes occur —-
While Johnson waited for his case to wind its way through the residential tenancy system, Critchley was renting out his duplex as her own.
Tanya Gerrard said she gave almost $1,100 to Critchley, who she knew as Betty Drake, when she answered a rental ad for half a duplex.
Lise Winicki has scammed many people in the Los Angeles area, generally by staying at their homes and never paying the rent due. It seems that she strings people along by giving people a check that bounces, then saying she is having some bank problems, and another check, and it too bounces, and on and on.
There are numerous reports about her on the site “Rip Off Reports, ” where people can write reports of scams, fraud and liars and cheats, at www.ripoffreport.com
Lise Winicki is never under any circumstance to be trusted.. ,,she has written me 3 bad checks now and as of this point owes me $5000.00. I am completely left in the wind by this creature and as well I had to have her removed with a witness present from the property. I wish I had looked into this early but I never thought it would come to this… I’m broke and saddened and now my living situation is in jeopardy due to this sociopath named Lise Winicki.
i received a message from Lise on the Airbnb website on February 20, 2015 asking to stay for a week maybe 2. I was planning a trip on 2-24-2015 to the high desert and have booked plenty of people over this last year through the Airbnb so I thought everything was going to be business as usual.. She wasn’t sure how long she was going to stay so agreed to pay me by check and then to pay me again on my return if she found out she was to be staying longer. ….
…… I agreed and deposited the check on 2-22-2015. It bounced. she told me a story about her card being stolen and wrote another.. It bounced later that week. I came back from the high desert and it didn’t really occur to me that she could be a scam artist. She pleaded with me that she wanted to stay longer and that the money was just late due to her having her card stolen and account being thrown into jeopardy. I chose to understand that these things happen and allowed her to write me a larger amount including the fees for the bounced checks… That was really stupid of me.. I left for an annual gathering of friends to San Francisco for about 10 days and while I was gone that check bounced… We are now 3 checks bounced and $3000.00 owed..
i returned home home with a “what the h*** is going on here” feeling. She assured me that she could have her father ———Alain Winicki- (alleged phone number)- 011 590 690 63 20 31——- wire transfer me the money overnight and she was so ” sorry to put me in such a ridiculous and crazy situation!!” he never returned my calls… In fact I don’t speak French and so I don’t even know if that is his actual number. She dragged it out and promised the transfer would come day after day after weekend after another day until I had to get a witness and go over to the apartment and make her sign a personal agreement for money owed as well as go with me to get it notarized.
as as far as I know, the money never came. BUT— she may have recieved money from someone and just decided not to pay me…
I work with people professionally every day and know how hard it can be out there in the big scary world so I have a huge heart. As of the last check for $3000.00 that I deposited and then used some of the non existent funds my bank account went into negative avaiability.
I don’t drive. I use UBER cars to get around to my clients houses. So since my return from San Francisco I have been stuck. Unable to work due to my negative bank account. I may lose clients over it.. Bottom line is I have a notarized agreement. I’ve been back and forth all over town to banks and western unions and to the apartment with witnesses present and I as of today —March 30, 2015 —had to go to the courthouse and file a claim against her. I had another party serve her the summons and then with a witness had to ask her to leave the apartment.
Upon closer inspection of me unit I discovered that not only had she gone through my things in the closet but that she was actually using my personal bathroom supplies and eaten EVERYTHING in the house, but that she left the place rearranged and messy.. She used all of my cleaning products somehow but nothing is clean.. I don’t understand. My mother who came as my witness says that she saw her smiling and laughing while she was on the phone with her lawyer…
i went beyond normal consideration ration and patience and now she is due in court on the 13th of May 2015..
my only thought is… What the h*** am I going to do in the meantime…?
DO NOT TRUST THIS CREATURE- I CAN NOT EVEN BEGIN TO DESCRIBE THE MIND BOGGLING STORIES AND EXCUSES THAT SHE WILL TRY TO SELL YOU. ITS DISGUSTING THE WAY SHE HAD TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF US.”
I’d like to point out here, that this Los Angeles resident who was an Airbnb host, would not have ended up scammed if she had kept the transaction on the Airbnb platform. A surprising number of Airbnb hosts get into the property rental business without knowing enough about that business. I suspect a great many of them are tenants themselves. They have one, two , three good guests and become complacent, thinking people are all good and everything will always go well. But being naive or uninformed about the property rental business can be dangerous.
Simply put, one should NEVER accept roommates, paying house guests, Airbnb guests, renters or tenants without knowing enough about the property rental business. This is a business where it is easy to be scammed if you dont’ know what you are doing.
If you’re an Airbnb host, and an Airbnb guest wants to stay with you, make them pay through the Airbnb platform. That’s how Airbnb requires it be done anyhow — taking direct payment from them is a violation of their terms. But too many people go with offsite payments, get scammed, and then scream about it. Particularly if you dont’ understand how scams work, you should never go off the site and accept direct payment.
The bottom line is, you NEVER let someone into your house until you have CASHED their check. And I mean cashed it, not deposited it. A deposited check can bounce, and you wont’ find out until several days later. Many experienced landlords will not take checks at all for this reason. So if you do take checks, you should only accept a check from a local bank. Then go to that bank (not your bank, their bank) and cash the check attheir bank. This is the only way to be sure that the check is good.
Dont’ ever “go with your heart” in the property rental business, giving someone space if they have problems with payment. Keep it strictly business, never allow someone in your house until you’ve been paid, and you’ll be safe. Remember the movie “Pacific Heights”? The nightmare all began because the foolish, inexperienced new property owners allowed the nightmare tenant to move in before they had cashed his check.
In Story Number Seven, a man rented out a house, and noticed that the tenants had apparently fled. He served eviction notice to the residence and posted it on the door for thirty days. A week later the tenants contacted him, asking him to put their stuff in storage. Then when he went over to the house to check it out, he discovered that they had completely gutted the house.
Literally and truly entirely gutted the house. They’d knocked out interior walls on each floor except the top. They’d pulled all the copper wiring out of the walls. They had extension cords running up the stairs from the several outlets they’d wired into the breaker box. The ceiling fans were gone. The bathroom sink was gone. There copper water lines were gone. When removing their abandoned property from the premises, the landlord was carrying a TV that was inexplicably lightweight. After removing the back, the tenant’s drugs and some cash were discovered hidden inside.
They even pulled down the kitchen cabinets that’d been newly installed before renting to them and according to one of the guys across the street who came to pick through the trash we set out, they’d sold the kitchen cabinets three months after moving in. Everyone on the block was told that they’d bought the house and was slowly remodeling.
The property owner eventually just put the house up for sale and sold it as is because he couldn’t’ afford to fix all the damage they’d done.
There’s nothing like the relief a property owner feels when she finally gets a seriously malicious tenant off her property.
On the day he was charged with assaulting his former landlord, James Regan, 62, was finally forced out of the Avenue Road apartment he’s occupied for many months without paying any rent.
Under the court-ordered supervision of two sheriffs, landlord Robin Ennis changed the locks on the apartment Tuesday morning.
“I am very relieved,” said Ennis, who is still owed more than $10,000.
James Regan was a serial squatter, renting one apartment after another and refusing to pay rent, and remaining squatting on the premises while the slow wheels of the court system ground down the property owner while simultaneously supporting and enabling the squatter James Regan in stealing months of accomodations from several property owners.
Beginning in 2014, Regan lived in a Lake Shore Boulevard West apartment for a year without paying any rent before finally getting evicted.
From there he moved to an apartment near Old Mill Road and Bloor Street West, where he was able to live for eight months without paying rent.
A news story on CBC News of Toronto tells the story of a property owner who discovered that his tenants were keeping livestock inside his house. It took 6 months to evict them, and once they were gone he found an enormous amount of garbage left on the premises. He had to rent a giant dumpster and remove animal carcasses from the premises. THe property owner estimated it would cost him $30,000 to get the smell of feces and urine out of the property.
Particularly in more politically progressive parts of the world, where there is much talk of skyrocketing rents and lack of affordable housing, we all hear a lot about poor tenants and greedy landlords. We hear about illegal evictions, and gentrification. What we dont’ hear so much about though, are the bad tenants. Or even, the really bad tenants.
So the intention of this website is to reflect the purpose of our organization, which is to do our part to bring back some balance from the overly simplified media portrayal of landlord-tenant relations, where landlords are vilified and tenants are viewed as poor victims. We want to share here some stories of some of the worst of tenants, which created significance expense and suffering to landlords, particularly small property owners. We also want to share some ideas/communal wisdom about how to deal with these problem tenants, and support for those who might be having to deal with such a malicious person.
These tales are also offered as cautionary stories — showing what could happen, if you don’t take care in screening tenants well — or even, what could happen in spite of all your efforts to do your due diligence.
The intent here is not to gripe about minor issues such as tenants who violate rental agreements or who complain a lot, or have pets when no pets are allowed. The intent is to focus on the really egregious situations of the bad and really bad tenants. This means focusing on cases where:
(1) The tenant was a serial scammer/criminal.
(2) The tenant was evicted and squatted on the premises for a long period of time after receiving an eviction notice, thus costing the property owner a great deal in lost rental income and legal/court fees.
(3) The tenant did extensive damage/vandalism to the property, or engaged in crimes there such as drug dealing.
(4) The renter stole from the property owner and/or burglarized the owner’s home.
(5) The tenant squatted and obtained free legal aid from a tenant attorney/association, while the property owner did not receive free legal aid, resulting in an enormous asymmetry in the justice system that drove up oosts and losses for the property owner.
(6) As a result of actions by the malicious tenant, the property owner was bankrupted, lost their property in foreclosure, or went out of business.
(7) The property owner was trying to evict the tenant in order to be able to live in their own home/property, and the tenant refused to leave, demonstrating either great malice or great entitlement — acting as though they had more rights to the property than the owner themselves.
(8) Cases where the media and/or tenant organizations/activists engaged in [b][i]public shaming of the property owner[/i][/b], such as referring to them as a “gentrifier”, or “greedy landlord”, or other negative appellation or insinuation, while at the same time depicting the squatting tenant as engaged in a righteous battle. When, without evidence supporting their claim, the media makes bad faith assumptions about the property owner’s attempt to evict a tenant — an action which too often, even when completely legal, results in public attacks and even protests.
Our overall preference is to focus on injustices to small property owners, those who own only one or two properties, not the large real estate corporations.
It’s true that there are some evictions that are illegal, but for the most part if a landlord is filing an Unlawful Detainer claiming rent has not been paid, or that they want to move into and live in their own property, it’s reasonable to assume that this is the case.
There are thousands of such cases every year so it’s not possible to post them all.
Looking at one particular city — an interesting but not surprising anecdotal observation is that an absolutely enormous number of Unlawful Detainer cases in San Francisco were filed for apartment buildings located in the Tenderloin District (the poorest area of the city) as well as by the San Francisco Housing Authority, which runs public or government funded housing in San Francisco. This demonstrates what we’d all expect, that the most problematic tenants who most often fail to pay rent, are the poorest ones, often those who are receiving housing subsidies and so are not actually even paying full market rent for their apartment.
Looking on the San Francisco Superior Court website, I find that between the year 2000 and the present time (December 2017) there were 305 pages of listings of Unlawful Detainer suits filed by the San Francisco Housing Authority, which at about 10 listing per page, comes to about 3000 unlawful detainer suits in 17 years’ time. THis amounts to 176 unlawful detainer cases each year. The total number of housing units was about 3500, as indicated in this article — http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/SF-s-public-housing-is-now-all-privately-run-10592245.php — so that means that for each year the public housing was in existence, 176/3500 = 5% of all the tenants in all these units required unlawful detainer suits.
Also, San Francisco, like Berkeley, sold off all its public housing in 2016 — very likely because it proved so expensive to run. Not only all the unlawful detainer suits that were required, but all the damages to the buildings. And keep in mind too that because low income tenants qualify for free legal representation (Whereas those with even moderate income do not) it is more costly in so many ways to rent to low income tenants.