In the Lents neighborhood, as elsewhere in Portland, the red-hot real estate market has encouraged realty signs to pop up on lawns everywhere.
But one seven-foot sign in Lents—outside of an unassuming two-bedroom house on Bybee and SE 84th—stands out from the crowd: The red-and-white painted plywood alerts passersby to the fact that the house is not up for sale.
"HOUSE NOT FOR SALE. REALTOR: RON LEE. FEATHER RIDGE REALTY. MY SON, WITH NO RESPECT IS UNETHICALLY ATTEMPTING TO SELL MY HOME WITHOUT CONSENT AND AGAINST MY WILL," reads the sign, which the house's occupant, 54-year-old Terry Lee—who at 5' 10", with a modest beer belly, looks like an average dad—made himself.
Lee says the unusual sign is a last-ditch effort to stay in the house he's lived in for the last six years with his mutt, Duchess. A bitter family argument—one that's drawn in Lee's neighbors, thanks in part to his sign—might lead to his eviction. The house's legal owner—Lee's son—Ron, of Feather Ridge Real Estate in Salem—has been trying to sell the house out from under him, according to the elder Lee. The house is on the market for $148,000, and Lee says he's been given two weeks to vacate the house. He is still unsure of where he will go.
Lee claims he should be able to stay in the home: He says he gave his son a $5,000 down payment for the house six years ago, on the understanding that the house would be his to live in until he dies. He says he's kept up mortgage payments by fixing washing machines out of the garage, and claims to be up-to-date. Despite keeping up his end of the verbal agreement, Lee claims he is now about to be made homeless—and he's at a loss to explain his son's behavior.
"When he first bought me the house, I'd planned on staying here forever. I've done over $40,000 worth of work on it and now I have no idea where I'm going. This is really upsetting for me," Lee says. "He's my son. I trusted him that everything would be okay."
But the younger Lee has a completely different take on the situation: When contacted by the Mercury last week, Ron Lee initially declined to discuss the situation: "I'm not really a Jerry Springer-type person, so there is no story. He is my biological father and I tried to give him a place to live, even though he doesn't pay his bills and sells drugs out of the house."
The younger Lee would say, however, that his father signed an agreement last month, pledging "not to cooperate with any slander." Speaking to the Mercury would violate the settlement, the son alleged. His father does not feel he agreed to that. "I signed something because my daughter told me I should try to get something out of the sale of the house," the elder Lee says. "But he's agreed to give me just $10,000, 45 days after I leave—but I don't think he will pay." Lee, who suffered a stroke last year and struggles to find the right words when he's speaking, also denies his son's allegations about selling drugs out of the house, saying they are a mendacious attempt to find acceptable justification to sell the house without his consent. He hopes that the bold sign will draw attention to his plight.
Lee's neighbors in Lents have taken notice. One describes Lee as a good man who has always been polite and cooperative, offering to fix gaps in his fence and occasionally looking after her pets. While she could not say for sure whether he is selling drugs from the house, she says his demeanor and behavior are inconsistent with a drug dealer's, and another neighbor says if he was doing something illegal, she would know about it. The Portland police say there has only been one call to the address in the last six years, but the police no longer have a record of what prompted the call.
Those residents feel it is unjust to see him kicked out of his home. One, who requested anonymity, even called Lee's son to express concern about the sale. She says he called back and left a threatening message on her answering machine.
"He said he was going to find out who I am, and to mind my own business, that his father was selling drugs out of the house and that I should be concerned about that if I was concerned about the neighborhood," she says. "But he was really nasty on the phone and now I don't want to deal with him at all."
Lee's son Ron has three reprimands and a civil penalty for late renewal of his real estate agent's license, on file at the offices of the Oregon Real Estate Agency (OREA) in Salem—which tracks complaints against the state's real estate agents. Lee's record of complaints is "above average" for an individual agent, according to an agency staffer—most agents have none.
In one complaint to the OREA last September, one of Lee's former employees, real estate agent Charles Anderson, alleged that Lee became agitated and "jumped up and lunged" at him, when Anderson said he was going to file a complaint about Lee over a contractual dispute. Lee was also placed on probation by the OREA for a year in 2000 because his "trustworthiness was at issue," according to the OREA's official records.
The younger Lee, contacted again by the Mercury, says his father stopped paying rent five months ago. Furthermore, he says his father hasn't done any work to improve the house and denies that he ever gave his father the house to live in for life. As for the complaints against him, he denies threatening his father's neighbor, and says Anderson's OREA complaint about him was completely false.
"The house has always been mine, but if you do not pay your rent, you do not have a place to live," he says. "Where will [my father] go? I do not know, and I do not care. And you can quote me on that."