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Accused of squatting, handyman not budging from Verdun woman's home

Accused of squatting, handyman not budging from Verdun woman's home

Sandra Matthieu looks away as bailiff Eric Martin informs her that James Clarke is still occupuying her mother's house in Verdun. Clarke has been staying at the house since December and refuses to leave.
 

Sandra Matthieu looks away as bailiff Eric Martin informs her that James Clarke is still occupuying her mother's house in Verdun. Clarke has been staying at the house since December and refuses to leave.

Photograph by: Phil Carpenter , THE GAZETTE

MONTREAL - A Verdun handyman accused of squatting has refused to vacate the home of an elderly woman, claiming he has a verbal agreement with her to stay in her house until the summer.

James Clarke claims that Elizabeth Hennigar, 75, told him that he could stay in the house until July 1st. He said the verbal agreement was made after she had hired him to renovate her house on Melrose Ave. in Verdun.

But Hennigar’s daughter, Sandra Mathieu, says Clarke’s claims are nonsense and says he has been squatting in the house since the end of January.

“He is taking advantage of her,” Mathieu said. “I don’t think he would be in the house if she was six feet two inches and 200 pounds.”

Mathieu said her mother needs Clarke out because she is trying to sell the house to finance the purchase of a retirement home in New Brunswick.

A lawyer, who is working for Mathieu on a “pro bono” basis, sent Clarke an eviction letter last Wednesday ordering him out of the house by Monday morning.

But when Mathieu turned up at the house with a bailiff on Monday night, Clarke was still there.

The bailiff, Eric Martin, told Mathieu she now needs to go to the rental board to get an expulsion order. Neither he nor Mathieu entered the house Monday.

Hennigar agreed to allow Clarke to live in her house during the renovations because he didn’t have a place of his own. Mathieu claims Clarke was asked to leave on Jan. 20, after being paid $2,400 for renovations, but says he refused, saying he couldn’t find anywhere to live.

“There is no way we would have let someone stay in the house when we were trying so hard to sell,” Mathieu said.

Clarke said Monday that he will likely leave the house at the beginning of April because he is “sick of The Gazette phoning me and having CTV News show up at my door.” He maintains that Mathieu and her mother are trying to “back out of our arrangement.”

A real estate agent, who has listed the house, said Hennigar never told him that Clarke would be staying in the house until July.

A spokesman for the rental board recommended that homeowners refrain from allow anyone to stay in their house without first signing a lease or a written agreement stating when the person is to vacate the property.

kwilton@montrealgazette.com