Down on the Farm / Up at the Cabin

How to Make Friends in a New Community: Being Helpful


When all is said and done, it still takes time for a home purchase to close. Monica finally had a purchase agreement on a small farm: 20 acres with rolling topography and some fenced pasture, a barely nice four-bedroom home with attached garage, and a huge 40'x 90' pole barn. And still some summer remained to make local friends before her teaching job began in September.

Monica's daughter was grown with a family of her own – it's difficult to make friends when your kids are adults. But church would be a key to meeting some local folks and maybe some farmer friends. (Farming sounded like fun, but Monica realized that she knew nothing and would have a lot to learn.)

Monica settled into a local community church. Although the congregation was small, it was welcoming. With instant friends: there were two female veterans, a single middle-aged teacher, and a few families who farmed. Having time on her hands before house closing and school starting, Monica offered to help her new friends with whatever was needed. One family invited her to help trim grape vines in their vineyard; it was hot, sweaty work, standing on a steep hillside -- but Monica liked being outdoors and loved learning new skills.

One Sunday, Monica listened to the teacher exclaiming frustration about her basement renter: the gal was behind on rent, causing problems, and refusing to leave. Monica had heard many stories from her dad about how difficult it was to evict tenants, usually costing thousands of dollars and causing months of frustration. Monica is a problem solver, had experience with renters, and loves to help others; she offered her new friend help in evicting the tenant.

"Let's make this official," Monica suggested. "Write up a lease and I will pay you $1 in rent to make the contract legally binding."

Contract in hand, Monica packed a few clothes, her cooler and grill, the air mattress, a few miscellaneous essentials, and moved into the other basement bedroom. The difficult tenant had gone away for the weekend, so while she was gone Monica helped pack her belongings.

Anything that might be used as a weapon (knives, tools) were stored at the bottom of the box, clothes and dishes on top. Two days later, the delinquent renter returned and discovered Monica -- her new, helpful roommate.

The shouting and cursing began, including pleas like, “Where I am supposed to go? I have nowhere to live! How am I supposed to move? I have nowhere to go…”

After pointing out that this was not the homeowner’s or Monica’s problem, Monica ignored her. The homeowner simply repeated her requests for rent owed.

Knowing that possession is nine-tenths of the law, Monica was careful not to leave the apartment. When dinner time came and she wanted to use the grill, Monica simply locked the bedroom door and climbed in and out of the window!

The tenant was – of course – furious and threatened to call the police. Both the homeowner and Monica agreed that was a wonderful idea (much to the chagrin of the apartment squatter). A very nice officer came to the home, understood the dilemma, and asked to

speak with each person individually. When it was her turn, Monica presented her driver's license and military identification (knowing that many officers had served in the military).

"I have my own home," Monica explained, "but I am just trying to help my friend, the homeowner."

"You know this isn't the normal way of doing things," the officer said.

To which Monica completely agreed. So the officer phoned the chief for advice on the legalities of the situation.

"Good news and bad news," the officer told the young lady. "No, the homeowner cannot force you to move out. You have a legal right to stay and make the homeowner go through the normal eviction process. The bad news is that Monica, having a legitimate lease, also has a legal right to stay."

Within 24 hours, still shouting and cursing, the delinquent renter packed up the rest of her belongings and moved out. Monica left a day or so later.