Courtesy Bracamonte Family(UPLAND, Calif.) — The former live-in nanny to a family that says she wouldn’t leave after they fired her over a month ago says she feels exploited and taken advantage of by them.
“I think they’re people that try to get something for nothing,” Diane Stretton, who’s been living in her car, told ABC News’ 20/20 about Marcella and Ralph Bracamonte. “I think they’re very cheap, and I think that they try to use people.”
The Bracamontes’ lawyer, Marc Cohen, says they now have to right to change the locks after Stretton vacated the property. Stretton has 18 days to collect her things, he claims. Stretton says this move, not sanctioned by a court, would be “unlawful.”
Stretton, 64, said she was in ill-health and homeless when she answered Marcella and Ralph Bracamonte’s ad looking for someone to help around their Upland, California, house and with their children in exchange for room and board.
“When I sleep in the car, my legs really swell up,” Stretton said. “And I was having a lot of trouble with my legs, so my friends said, ‘Why don’t you look on Craigslist?’”
Stretton said it seemed like a fair trade for her and the Bracamontes. “For 20 hours a week [of] work, I’d get my legs up and take care of my heart condition and get to sleep in a bed,” Stretton said.
“It was help out with the kids when needed, to pick up little things and to maybe prep up a little bit of dinner if [Marcella] was running a little bit late,” Ralph Bracamonte told ABC News’ 20/20.
“She was awesome,” Marcella Bracamonte told 20/20, referring to Stretton when she first started the job.
But Stretton said the Bracamontes began to expect more of her and that she worked more hours than they were entitled to for the value of her room.
“I feel very exploited and very much taken advantage of,” Stretton said. “They didn’t know I was homeless, but they knew that I didn’t have a lot. They knew that it would be difficult for me to do something else.”
A few weeks into their arrangement, the Bracamontes said Stretton would stay in her room, demanding meals and refusing to work. Marcella Bracamonte said she gave her warnings and wrote a “last chance letter,” laying down new ground rules, including steam cleaning all the floors either Friday or Saturday, cooking meals and helping on trips with the kids, which Stretton refused to sign.
“She was absolutely part of our family. And then she changed,” said Ralph Bracamonte.
Marcella Bracamonte said she fired Stretton on June 6, 2014, but Stretton refused to move out. Stretton said she wasn’t fired and that she quit.
“She kept asking me and pressuring me, you know, ‘Please sign the letter, please sign the letter.’ Well, the letter was written very, very vaguely,” Stretton said. “The issue was they just thought that they could have me 24/7.”
According to Stretton, she had an agreement with the Bracamotes that, if she were to quit or be fired, they would give each other 30 days’ notice.
“So I was a tenant at will. I expected during that period of time all of the amenities, whatever the circumstances of your rental agreement are … until the 30 days are up,” she said.
By law, the Bracamontes couldn’t enter Stretton’s room in their own home. Stretton was legally a tenant, and in California, you can’t force a tenant out on the street just because an agreement has ended.
“She has a legal right to come in there at any time,” Marc Cohen, the Bracamontes’ lawyer, told 20/20. “And this family is going to have to live with Ms. Stretton and the fear of Ms. Stretton.”
Stretton’s legal history emerged during her standoff with the Bracamontes. She has a history of litigation and is listed on the state of California’s Vexatious Litigant List for cases filed in San Diego Superior Court, but Stretton said she shouldn’t be on the list.
“Because, a lot of those cases, first of all I won, but some of them settled in my favor,” Stretton explained. “But they were written in such a way that you couldn’t tell that. So they counted against me for that.”
Marcella and Ralph Bracamonte said the ordeal has put stress on their marriage and frightened their three children. But Stretton claimed she’s the victim.
“They were yelling swear words at me and calling me four-letter words and everything else,” she said. “All I did was I didn’t sign the contract. I didn’t deserve that kind of treatment.”
With her belongings still in the Bracamontes’ home, Stretton said she doesn’t intend to live there any longer.
“My problem is I wanted to be able to move out without being a spectacle,” Stretton said. “They keep inviting the media in there, and I was taking things out a little bit at a time.”
Last week, Stretton said she wanted certain conditions met before she moved out, including being allowed to sleep in the house several more nights, to use the shower and to have the media go away from the house.
Until then, when asked what lesson she learned out of everything, Stretton said, “When I get my pension, I’m going to get a place and live by myself.”
“Even if it’s a studio apartment, I’m going to live by myself,” she said.
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