By Hannah Reich Berman
Problems come in all forms. Some are easily understood, others less so. Many people may have a problem finding a cleaning girl or a nanny. Or they might find one but then have trouble keeping her. Good workers are hard to find, and everyone in the market for a worker wants one who will do a good job of cleaning the house, and who is neat, clean, presentable, honest, and trustworthy. Parents need a nanny who will be kind to the children and who are responsible in every way.
The last thing anyone wants is for a worker in the home to leave without notice by disappearing after a day off and not returning. Not too many people think of the opposite problem—a worker who shows up, proves to be unsatisfactory, and then refuses to leave. But that’s exactly what happened recently when a California couple, Marcella and Ralph Bracamonte, hired 64-year-old Diane Stretton to care for their three children.
Stretton was pleasant enough when she first arrived, and all was well for two months. Then, one day, it wasn’t! The party was over. Out of the blue, the new nanny simply refused to do anything. She wouldn’t take care of the children and wouldn’t clean the house. The only thing she would do was remain in the home! Despite the fact that she was doing nothing—zero, zilch—she refused to leave the Bracamonte home. Marcella and Ralph tried getting rid of her, but it wasn’t easy. Stretton became something akin to a squatter.
Flabbergasted by her insistence on remaining in the house, the couple went to the police for help. There, they were told, politely but firmly, there was nothing the police could do. When the couple went on to consult with an attorney, the unsuspecting duo learned that the situation was not a simple one. Apparently the “do-nothing nanny” had her rights. According to the law, she and the couple had entered into a contract that gave her a place to live and now she had as much right to be there as they did. Hard to believe, but true!
So far, the courts have declared that, under landlord–tenant law, Stretton is allowed to stay where she is. The family was told that they had to go through an eviction process to get her out. It has become a civil matter. But their hopes were dashed when they went to court and the judge, declaring that they had filed the wrong legal papers, sided with Stretton. The “do-nothing nanny” is now known as the “won’t-go nanny.” The situation prompted a long-overdue background check, but in the meantime Stretton continues to remain in the home, eat the Bracamontes’ food, and sleep in the bed that had been provided for her. In short, she has full use of the premises.
According to Ralph, Stretton is a tall and powerfully built woman who literally towers over his wife Marcella, and his wife is fearful. Actually, they are all fearful. This woman has become the terror of their household. Barring any resolution in the near future, some incentives come to mind. They might consider delivering the children to a grandparent’s home to keep them safe and then stocking the fridge and kitchen cabinets with inedible items.
This couple initially agreed that Stretton could live in their home but maybe that means that their only obligation is to provide her with a bed. If not having a single drop of edible food or drink in the house does not force her out, they could have the water and electricity turned off and then seal all the windows shut. California can be mighty hot at this time of year.
If none of these options is permissible to the couple under the so-called landlord–tenant contract that they unsuspectingly entered into, Stretton could sue them to supply her with food, to turn everything back on, and to unseal the windows. But, as the Bracamontes have already learned, lawsuits take time. Our courts work slowly. And in the interim, life for Stretton would be uncomfortable. These aforementioned incentives might do the trick, but chances are the couple won’t go that route.
Recently, results of that overdue background check on this “nanny” yielded information that they should have had from the beginning. A local reporter discovered that, over a period of years, Stretton has filed multiple lawsuits against others and has had several filed against her. It has come to light that people from all over the country have had legal dealings with the woman. There are cases on record that involve homeowners’ association upkeep, traffic accidents, appliance purchases, and even rental cars.
She has made numerous claims against her own family after being left out of her father’s will. But it is no wonder that Pops decided not to leave anything to this daughter. Because of all her many filings, she was deemed to be vexatious, or a troublesome litigant, in probate proceedings. What a pity that these findings came too late to stop an innocent family from hiring her from a Craigslist ad. Due diligence is a legal term that means “checking things out.” It most often pertains to the act of buying or selling something, but it should also be used when hiring! That’s the way it is. v
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-902-3733.