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Followup: New owners of eviction-fight house say they’re taking the city to court

Followup: New owners of eviction-fight house say they’re taking the city to court

July 29, 2014 at 4:28 pm | In West Seattle housing, West Seattle news | 30 Comments

(July 18 WSB photo)
A new development late today in the fight over a Morgan Junction house that’s been the subject of a showdown over foreclosure and eviction. Eight days ago, Mayor Ed Murray announced he was telling police to stand by until the circumstances Byron and Jean Barton‘s legal fight over the house was clearer; this afternoon, we received the following announcement from a law firm representing the company that bought the house at foreclosure auction in April:

Triangle Property Development has taken legal action to force Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and the Seattle Police Department to uphold the law by removing the illegal trespassers from a West Seattle house.

The company filed the document, formally called a writ of mandamus, in King County Superior Court more than a week after Murray ordered police officers to stand down rather than remove Byron and Jean Barton from the house, which they had broken into after being legally evicted by King County Sheriff’s deputies. Triangle Property Development bought the house at a foreclosure auction in April, more than two years after the Bartons stopped making mortgage payments.

“Mayor Murray’s refusal to uphold the law is undermining the legal process by preventing a property owner from lawfully using and possessing its property,’’ said Synthia Melton, legal counsel for Triangle Property Development. “The legal issues the mayor refers to in this case have already been determined by the courts. The Mayor’s inaction is supporting criminal trespass, and can set dangerous precedent for how court-ordered evictions will be executed, making it more difficult for law enforcement to perform its job.”

Much of the media coverage surrounding the eviction of the Bartons has been incomplete, misleading or downright inaccurate. Here are the facts of the case:

According to King County property records, the Bartons received the house free and clear from a family trust in 2003 and almost immediately began to use a series of mortgages to turn the value of the house into cash. By August of 2007, the house was pledged to more than $660,000 of debt.

In 2011, the Bartons ceased making payments on their mortgages. In 2012, their lender began foreclosure proceedings, which concluded in April when Triangle Property Development bought the property at auction.

Mindful of Mr. Barton’s disability, Triangle made repeated offers of thousands of dollars of relocation assistance to the family, who refused that help in favor of a series of futile attempts to block the eviction in court.

On July 18, King County Sheriff’s deputies evicted the Bartons from the house despite the interference of protestors, and changed the locks. After the deputies left, the Bartons, along with protestors, broke into the house, committing the crimes of breaking-and-entering and trespass. Since that time, they have illegally trespassed on the property, and protesters have subjected Triangle Property Development employees and officials to harassment and abuse.

The case drew regional media attention back on Friday, July 18th, when King County Sheriff’s Deputies evicted the Bartons, four weeks after a different KCSO employee had declined to evict them because of Byron Barton’s health status. Meantime, we’re following up on this new development – including looking up the latest court documents – and will add whatever reaction we get.


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  1. so…what happens if they vacate, Triangle tears down, starts building a new house, and the the Bartons win their law suit. I’m not a legal mind, so I’m asking. The house would be gone. Would they be compensated monetarily? Anyone out there want to venture an answer to this “what if”?

    The Bartons do have a law suit pending, don’t they? Or am I imagining that?

    Comment by JanS — 4:45 pm July 29, 2014 #

  2. JanS, previous WSB story noted that Triangle said they were not going to tear down the home.

    Comment by Graham Morgan — 4:52 pm July 29, 2014 #

  3. thanks…so, substitute “remodel” :)

    Comment by JanS — 4:54 pm July 29, 2014 #

  4. I 100% agree with this court actions and hope it is executed quickly. This is not a case of people being swindled by a bank. This is a couple that systematically lived beyond there means (BEFORE HIS HEALTH ISSUES) by cashing out the equity in their house and at that point putting up their house as collateral. I never like to see or cheer for someone losing their home but this is what happens. It is sad that people make these choices but in the end of the day it is a choice that they made.

    Comment by The Truth — 4:55 pm July 29, 2014 #

  5. This just came in a short time ago so now I’m following up on a whole variety of aspects (checking back on the court files, the site’s DPD files if any, asking the mayor and the Bartons for comment, etc.). And yes, they have a lawsuit pending, though it’s over the foreclosure = going back to check that too. Tonight I don’t have a meeting to go to and might finally be able to put together something resembling a coherent timeline of all this. The comment about “not going to tear down the house” was from a Triangle Development-affiliated person. I had noted that this is a double-lot house, meaning that it COULD potentially hold two residences, under zoning, though that depends on a lot of things including the site’s buildability – Tracy

    Comment by WSB — 4:56 pm July 29, 2014 #

  6. ” more than two years after the Bartons stopped making mortgage payments. ”

    .I get it – its sad as heck to see someone evicted, but come on – two years + without making a mortgage payment? just what is the new owner supposed to do? just say “oh well” and forget about it?

    Comment by flimflam — 4:56 pm July 29, 2014 #

  7. I only know the facts posted here and in the related stories – based on that, I hope there is an expedient resolution and the new rightful owner takes possession. I would also like to see charges filed against those who assisted with the breaking and entering. I am sure this will be the popular opinion based on posts in related stories … not.

    Comment by Graham Morgan — 4:57 pm July 29, 2014 #

  8. All coverage seems a bit one-sided, not WSB, and the “facts” presented gently lead to certain conclusions. I have seen little coverage of the other side—there is some reason people chose to defend these people. I, for one,am leery of a no-tear-down assumption based on what the developer said.

    Just an alternative view.

    Comment by charlabob — 5:06 pm July 29, 2014 #

  9. “According to King County property records, the Bartons received the house free and clear from a family trust in 2003 and almost immediately began to use a series of mortgages to turn the value of the house into cash. By August of 2007, the house was pledged to more than $660,000 of debt.”

    Wow! I felt bad that mounting medical bills put them in this position, then I realized his stroke happened in 2012.
    Wish I could borrow over half a million and live in my home without paying a mortgage.

    Comment by Krm66 — 5:13 pm July 29, 2014 #

  10. TR – thank you for publishing the facts in this case instead of the sensationalism. Your straight-up journalism is appreciated!

    Comment by Kim — 5:15 pm July 29, 2014 #

  11. Well, we’re trying. I also believe in publishing statements so that people can hear for themselves what the various sides are saying – we have published statements from multiple sides in this case now, and I am sure there are more to come. In the previous coverage, we were one of only two media crews left when the advocates supporting the Bartons gave a press briefing, and we recorded it and published that video in its entirety as well – that was part of the unfolding coverage that ran from morning into the night on July 18th (embedded into the story around noontime) – – more to come – TR

    Comment by WSB — 5:22 pm July 29, 2014 #

  12. I hope they go hard after Murray for his abuse of office. Would never have happened anywhere else but in Seattle. Really doesn’t matter what new property owners do as it’s their property that they paid for, and don’t forget the Bartons were going to end up with money if they moved out, not exactly broke, just don’t want to move along with not paying towards what they owe. Everyone should quit paying their utility bills and taxes to the city and see what happens, you will get a lean on your home then sold 2-3 years if not paid. Quicker than what’s going on in this case.

    Comment by wetone — 5:26 pm July 29, 2014 #

  13. I don’t understand how the mayor has executive power beyond what the legal system has ruled. The Barton’s need to recognize they don’t have legal rights to the property and vacate without additional protest. It sounds like Bartons are clearly aware of how to “play” the system to their advantage.

    Comment by Mt — 5:29 pm July 29, 2014 #

  14. Well written press release and very correct. This is an abuse of power by the mayor and a sad, pathetic milking of the media that is so typical of Seattle.

    Comment by Ray — 5:36 pm July 29, 2014 #

  15. Enough a enough. Out they go.

    Comment by 35thSteve — 5:44 pm July 29, 2014 #

  16. I know many West Seattleite who inherited homes and are living in a place they couldn’t possibly afford on their own, but most have avoided succumbing to this money trap. Not good to get stuff free.

    Comment by G — 6:03 pm July 29, 2014 #

  17. Seriously! If the Bartons sucked $660,000 dollars in loans/equity out of that house, they clearly came out ahead. I’ll bet it sold on foreclosure at 1/2 that price, probably less. The bank took a beating and the taxpayers (ala bank bailouts) absorb the rest. Sorry for the Bartons and the decisions they made, but on the face I see little merit in their case. and that makes the Mayor an idiot to be involved.

    Comment by steve — 6:25 pm July 29, 2014 #

  18. I wish there were an easy way to regurgitate all the information from all previous stories (and comment discussions) into each successive one. Since there isn’t: No, Steve, the house sold at auction for about that sum. The mortgage was less. King County Sheriff’s reps told us that the Bartons actually get part of the proceeds because Triangle bought the house for more than the minimum bid, more than was owed on the house. Not quite sure how that works but that’s what they said. I have not confirmed all the numbers mentioned in this statement – still trying to find a new court document, for one. – TR

    Comment by WSB — 6:36 pm July 29, 2014 #

  19. So, Ed murray is above the law? He’s going to get sued and kicked out of office.

    Comment by sittingbird — 7:02 pm July 29, 2014 #

  20. Since when does a “mayor” have juristiction over a county? If I understand correctly, this was a county procedure that was enforced by the KC Sheriff. They should be the ones back to enforce the lawfull eviction, regardless of what the “mayor” wants. The SPD should only be involved if needed to “keep the peace”.

    Comment by bs — 8:03 pm July 29, 2014 #

  21. As noted by the King County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson we interviewed for our report last week (it’s linked in the first paragraph of our story above), it is their duty to serve eviction orders. However, that does not mean they have permanent jurisdiction over/responsibility for the eviction site/scene. Once they had done their duty, KCSO said, it was up to SPD, who has police jurisdiction, to enforce the law against what could be considered burglary/trespassing.

    Comment by WSB — 8:07 pm July 29, 2014 #

  22. I feel sorry for the developer. They will sink thousands into legal fees to claim what it rightfully theirs, then carry the scarlet letter for being the bad guy. Come on Barton’s, take your personal possessions from the home and leave.

    Comment by Joe — 8:44 pm July 29, 2014 #

  23. Wow. No words. Out they go. Get a house free clear and dig yourself into this kind of mess? Not okay. I agree with Joe’s comment above.

    Comment by M — 9:21 pm July 29, 2014 #

  24. I’m all for Vets. Work with them everyday.
    But, this is not a Vet story and there is much more to it than the takers media are telling. You don’t wait for a gapping wound to turn into an amputation and expect everyone else to bail you out. They were irresponsible and it’s costing them the home they lived in for free…for a long time! Using being a Vet to gain attention to this irresponsibility is shameful and takes our attention off our Vets who really need us as a result of their service.

    Comment by WTF — 9:49 pm July 29, 2014 #

  25. If the foreclosure is found illegal in June of next year, then this was an illegal sale and the Bartons will likely take back their land from this developer. The one the developer needs to sue is the people they made a quick $ with on this deal. But what’s that, the developer would have sold this already and run off with large amounts of cash? Yes, yes they would have. And who then do the Bartons go after to get their land and home back? If it’s an illegal foreclosure, the only one losing out on all this is the Bartons.

    Comment by Mike — 9:50 pm July 29, 2014 #

  26. “According to King County property records, the Bartons received the house free and clear from a family trust in 2003 and almost immediately began to use a series of mortgages to turn the value of the house into cash. By August of 2007, the house was pledged to more than $660,000 of debt.”
    I’d love to read these, if somebody can provide the links to this documentation so I can interpret it myself instead of reading the legal twisted view of it by “a law firm”. Can you also name that law firm, I’d love to do a background check on them. There’s all sorts of fun stuff about law firms on the Internet. Which ones are connected to each case is always fun to see.

    Comment by Mike — 10:15 pm July 29, 2014 #

  27. Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A lawyer, developer and a banker walk into a bar…

    Comment by Mike — 10:29 pm July 29, 2014 #

  28. Triangle’s representation is Dimension Law Group of Renton. I still haven’t found this particular filing. I have found a couple other eviction cases – preceded by foreclosures – involving Triangle, however. As discussed extensively in comments on our previous two stories about all this, you can find some of the real-estate documents in King County Online Records, which unlike the Superior Court docs at ECR Online, does not usually shut down for the night, and does not require paying per page, etc. I don’t re-upload docs like these in most cases because they tend to have very personal information and I don’t have software for redacting. – TR

    Comment by WSB — 10:29 pm July 29, 2014 #

  29. What does Kshama Sawant have to say about this whole thing? She went down in person the day of the eviction, but I don’t hear a peep out of her now cmon Kshama.I get it a good time for a photo op.

    Comment by sittingbird — 11:01 pm July 29, 2014 #

  30. “[free] Housing is a human right.” Wow, I didn’t know that. I’d like to know how to get one of these free houses please.

    And can I also have the hundreds of thousands of dollars in home equity loans along with my free housing?

    Thank you.

    Comment by Alex — 11:22 pm July 29, 2014 #

  31. Thanks WSB for the clarification. I misspoke. A house up for auction will always start the bidding at the balance (660k in this case) that is due on the mortgage. I find it amazing that this house sold for this amount(and higher) in this area, but then again we are in another real estate bubble. If there were no takers at auction, then this house would have become “bank owned.” The Bartons unfortunately got in over their heads, but lucky that they’re actually coming out ahead with proceeds from the sale. i.e., lucky that it sold at auction, and above starting bid.

    Comment by steve — 12:01 am July 30, 2014 #

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