Never before has this column ventured into a landlord-tenant dispute. They’re often messy affairs with little larger significance. But the case of Jeana Azar was hard to resist. She’s a homeowner and the “landlord.”
Back on Valentine’s Day, Azar’s former friend and current “tenant,” Teresa Martin, got Azar kicked out of her own house. Azar is back in it now.
The story behind this curious situation is a cautionary tale of personal friendship and kindheartedness that took a hard turn into bitter animosity, a claimed assault and a court-issued protective order.
It hinges on the surprising difference between a “guest” and a “tenant” under Virginia law.
The two women were in Roanoke County General District Court Wednesday and they’ll be back there March 11. In the meantime, they’re both still living in Azar’s Southwest Roanoke County home — and walking on eggshells.
Jeana Azar, 51, a jewelry vendor and mother of four, told me she met Martin in classes at Virginia Western Community College more than 20 years. Since then, they’ve bumped into each other here and there around town, but that was about it.
Martin, 52, told me that until May, she had lived in Kentucky for the better part of a decade, but visited Roanoke frequently. Last spring her 10-year marriage ended in divorce, which left her homeless, she said. In May, she reached out by telephone to Azar, whom she had seen occasionally on her visits here.
Both women agree Azar invited Martin to stay in the Azars’ modest brick rancher on Thompsons[cq] Lane, off Colonial Avenue. Azar’s husband, Tony Azar, was fine with the temporary arrangement. They’ve helped out others the same way before, he said.
“She said, ‘I don’t have much to offer you. I can offer you a bed so you can get re-established,’” Martin told me.
Martin has lived rent-free in the Azars’ basement storage room ever since. That was about nine months ago. About here is where their stories greatly diverge.
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