Tyler Kellen and other tenants at Elk Village in north Medford are facing eviction after the owner's businesses faltered under a cloud of bankruptcy and criminal charges. - Bob Pennell

Residents face eviction as landlord loses businesses

Looking for a safe place to raise her two granddaughters, Wendi McCormick jumped at a chance to rent a new townhouse on Elk Street, thankful that the landlord, who claimed to be raising grandkids of his own, was willing to take her rent in installments and even let her trade work for credit on her rent.

Now, after more than two years, during which she claims she has never gotten a receipt for rent and has been plagued with leaking pipes and skyrocketing power bills, McCormick and nearly half her neighbors in Elk Village face eviction.

The tenants at the 16-unit complex on Medford's northern edge blame mismanagement by the property owner, First Call Mortgage LLC, and its principal Jim Nistler, whose enterprises have floundered amid criminal, civil and bankruptcy cases since the economy slumped.

They claim that a tangle of incomplete and altered leases and rental agreements, a lack of receipts, and disagreements about what their rent covered has prevented them from being treated fairly as Nistler lost control of his businesses.

Seven residents of the complex made first appearances in Jackson County Circuit Court on Monday in the eviction cases.

"Are you evicting all of your tenants here?" Judge Dan Harris asked, as each stood up to demand a trial.

"Only the ones who didn't pay rent," said Ted Durant, who was appointed receiver of Nistler's properties in a civil suit this month.

As soon as Durant's company took control of the Nistler properties, eviction notices were issued on Sept. 15.

McCormick claims that the day before she got the notification, she had delivered $375 to cover half her rent and had also dropped off her sister-in-law's rent payment at Nistler's home.

"The next day I got the notice that rent should be paid to a new company and when I tried to call Jim, he didn't answer his cell phone," she said. "I'm a little irritated."

Her neighbors, Tyler Kellen and Tiffany Birch, wrote out their own receipts each month for nearly two years, claiming that's what Nistler told them to do if they wanted records. However, Tigard-based Durant & Associates can't confirm their receipts, their lease agreement or the 30-day notice the pair claim they sent in announcing their intention to move in October anyway.

"We just want to be heard," Kellen said, adding that he would like to move on without a blemish on his rental record.

"Mainly, these are just families trying to get by," Kellen said of the tenants facing eviction.

Ralph Campbell and Trina Diehl hoped to buy a home Nistler built in White City and signed a lease with an option to buy in spring 2009. Within days of moving in, sheriff's deputies turned them out, explaining that the home had been foreclosed on and Nistler had no right to rent or sell it.

"I think he felt bad, so he moved us over here," Diehl said.

She said he crossed out the original address on their original lease, but never gave them a new agreement. When Campbell stepped in to provide maintenance around the Elk Street complex in exchange for rent discounts, no discounts were ever applied, the couple said.

In court the couple claimed they had sent in the remainder of the rent listed as still due, but Durant said the money hadn't been received yet.

Diehl said she plans to move in October, but also doesn't want an eviction on her record.

Durant declined to discuss the slew of evictions. The Nistlers couldn't be reached for comment.

In May 2009, Nistler and his wife, Michelle Nistler, were each charged with two counts of racketeering and eight counts of aggravated first-degree theft and securities fraud in what investigators claimed was a Ponzi scheme that misappropriated at least $900,000. Michelle Nistler, whose charges since have been dismissed, also sought that month to have the couple's businesses liquidated under Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection.

The bankruptcy filing, which includes First Call Mortgage, White City Properties Inc., White City Land Inc., Jackson County Development LLC and A-1 Secured Storage Inc., lists $2.7 million in assets and more than $7 million in debt owed to banks, credit unions, investors, credit card companies and a variety of service providers.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 541-776-4485 or e-mail

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