A pile of full trash bags, a discarded vacuum and a baby high chair — all an eyesore on the porch of Kendra Kloster’s East Anchorage condominium. They’re remnants of the renters she says turned into squatters.

Kloster has been leasing her old condo out for years after she purchased another home nearby.

“I decided to keep this as a rental, kind of an investment property for myself,” she said. “And I’ve had good luck most of the time with renters.”

This time was different. While Kloster’s screening and application process is thorough enough — check references, search applicants’ names on CourtView, etc. — her most recent tenants were subletting from someone else she was renting to.

“They had paid one month of rent and then they just stopped paying after that,” said Kloster. “And so I continued to try and work with them for probably about a month and a half. They continued to give me numerous excuses on why the rent couldn’t be here.”

letter kendra kloster eviction squatters

Next came a warning, a note Kloster delivered to the tenants asking for March and April rent. In it, she cited the Landlord & Tenant Act, the statute that governs the relationships between the two parties in Alaska.

“This was my worst case scenario, was someone that not only refused to pay but they refused to move,” she said. “I’ve never encountered this before, and I was actually really surprised that people would do this, actually. I was very shocked.”

Kendra Kloster eviction squatters Facebook

Finally, after three months of unpaid rent, Kloster filed a complaint to evict the tenants. When summoned for a hearing on the matter in court, documents show the tenants evaded the process. Kloster followed that with a post on Facebook, detailing her frustrations:

“I continue to follow the law to get squatters out of a property that I own,” she wrote. “They have lived rent free for three months and continue to show no sign of moving. Today, at my second court hearing, I got the approval for eviction. They have 48 hours to move.”

Under her post were comments from other Alaskans, who told Kloster they’d had similar experiences in their leasing pursuits.

“I was very surprised at the extent that this is happening here in Anchorage, and that’s what worries me most of all,” Kloster said.

Eviction court, necessary in the process to formally evict a tenant who refuses to leave the property, is familiar territory for attorney Ralph Ertz, whose advice to landlords is to run their leases like a business.

“Quite frankly, I find that a lot of people run their business or run their landlording investment more like a corner lemonade stand as opposed to a full-blown investment,” said Ertz. “And yet a landlord that owns a fourplex that may have $400,000 or 500,000 tied up and committed in that fourplex — that type of significant investment requires some research and study and knowledge and good advice.”

Ertz says about half of his smaller-scale landowners, like those who own a duplex or fourplex, have never read Alaska’s Landlord & Tenant Act. It’s a careless mistake that often costs them time and money.

“You have this huge investment sitting there that you’re going to hand over basically to a complete stranger,” said Ertz. “It doesn’t take very much for a person to do $50,000 or $100,000 worth of damage to a property.”

In that regard, Kloster considers herself lucky. She says because she knew her rights and acted quickly, the scars were minimal.

“I was fortunate that there was some damage, but not to the extent that I’d heard from other people where they’ve gutted the place, there’s holes in the wall,” said Kloster. “I lucked out, and that didn’t happen.”

Still, it’s months of her life that she can’t get back — and thousands of dollars possibly down the drain. Now that her tenants are out, Kloster’s next step is to go back to court to try and get them to pay back months of unpaid rent and any money she’s spent on repairs.

“This is my home, this is a place that I take care of,” said Kloster. “And with not getting rent and having people refuse to move out of your house, it’s stressful, it’s financially stressful, and it’s not something I enjoy going through.”

She says next time she posts an ad for new tenants, she’ll take her screening measures one step further and run a background check.

More information on the Landlord & Tenant Act can be found here.

Contact Sierra Starks at sstarks@ktva.com and on Facebook and Twitter, @SStarksKTVA