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Safety Harbor homeowner wants judge to boot unwelcome guests

SAFETY HARBOR — The case of a Safety Harbor man and the houseguests who wouldn't leave is so odd the TV show Inside Edition wants to film a segment about it.

But the show had better hurry.

At 2 p.m. Thursday, Judson Randall, 47, will ask Circuit Court Judge John Schaefer to boot out his unwelcome houseguests — and their dogs — once and for all.

He's hoping that by the end of the hearing, his nearly eight-month standoff with Elizabeth Sewall, 50, and her daughter, Jessica Sewall, 20, will be over and he can have his house — and his life — back.

"Peace would be a good thing,'' Randall said.

Randall thought he was doing a good deed June 15 when he let the women he met through an acquaintance move into his house/art studio until they could get back on their feet. But months passed, accusations flew back and forth and he wasn't able to get them out.

Tampa lawyer John McMillan, who specializes in representing landlords, said Randall's big mistake was giving the strangers permission to stay at his house, even if it was only for a few weeks.

Some people never leave. He said he's seen the drama play out before many times with cases involving boyfriends and girlfriends, and parents and adult children, but it usually doesn't last this long.

McMillan also explained why calling law enforcement for assistance never worked for Randall.

"Once the owner invites them to live there, the police won't make a decision whether that right to live there has ended,'' he said. "They leave it up to a judge to decide. It's a civil matter.''

McMillan said even if Randall changes the locks on the doors, the Sewalls can break in legally and stay in his house until a judge orders them to leave.

"Then the law needs to be changed,'' said Randall. "People can take your house.''

As for Inside Edition, Randall was contacted by the show after a story on his plight appeared last week in regional editions of the Times, but he hasn't heard back.

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Eileen Schulte can be reached at schulte@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4153.

Safety Harbor homeowner wants judge to boot unwelcome guests 01/26/09 [Last modified: Monday, January 26, 2009 11:23pm]
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