My question involves defamation in the state of: Pennsylvania. I'll say right off the bat that I've made some mistakes that complicated my situation, as far as finding a solution. I should have documented and reported every incident. Allow me to first explain my living situation.
I am currently staying in a house owned by a woman I have never met. There is no lease or contract of any kind, only a verbal agreement that I will clean and care for the house in return for being allowed to live in it. The situation eas meant to be temporary, but it has been over two years at this point. The previous tenant had offered me money to clean up the mess she left when she moved out of this house, and through this situation I came to discuss my own lack of shelter with the house's owner, which resulted in our agreement. She pays some of the household bills. I am responsible for the rest, and also any repairs that must be done. The last tenant did a lot of damage to the house, and left it such a mess that it probably should have been condemned. Not wishing to be involved in their argument, I told the owner that everything was fine and just cleaned it up. It took me a very long time, and though the owner has occasionally sent gift cards, etc to help pay for cleaning supplies, most of what I have done has come out of my own pocket. Last year there was a bad flood in the neighborhood, which caused even more damage, and despite some help from FEMA I still was not financially able to finish the repairs. I am afraid to move out of the house until I have finished the repairs, but I am afraid that my situation with the neighbors will get much worse before I can afford that.
The neighbors here are absolutely horrible, especially two who live very close to me. Within weeks of my moving in, they began threatening me, threatening my dogs and vowing to drive me out of the house or have me arrested for whatever it is they think I'm up to. They have been spreading gossip about my supposed drug addiction, alleged illegal activities, accusations of illegal dog fighting and a variety of other wild assumptions. They have repeatedly called the code office, making all sorts of claims about my lawn, the supposed smells coming out of the house, and my supposed abuse of my dogs. None of these things are true, yet according to the house's owner she has been threatened with fines if I do not fix these problems. I do not know how to fix a problem that isn't there! I have found doors open, flower pots knocked over or destroyed, things moved or missing, hand prints on the windows, and mysterious injuries on the dogs several times over these years. I have mentioned some of these incidents to the house's owner and to the police, but in both cases I was told nothing could be done without more proof. After yhe most recent call to the code officer, I wrote a letter to the house's owner telling her how the neighbors have been tormenting me. Unfortunately I did not keep a copy of it. Shortly after that, one of my dogs died very suspiciously. Again, I had no proof but I strongly suspect the neighbors wrre simply making good on their threats. That was only two weeks ago, and already they seem to be planning something again, standing outside my house, glancing up at my windows, and consoling each other as if I'M the one bothering THEM. Honestly, I have tried so hard to avoid them and keep them off my back that I have become a prisoner in the house. I'm afraid to sit on the porch, let the dogs out in the yard or make any noise. I'm under so much stress that it is affecting my health. And I don't understand why this is happening. These people do not know me. I have never done anything to them. Yet they have been acting like we're at war since the day I moved in, and I'm starting to wonder if the owner is on their side.
My question is, what in the world can I do? I'm trying to move out, but cannot afford it yet. And even after I leave, am I still obligated to finish these repairs despite the stress I've had to live with here? Do I have any right to peace or privacy in this house? Do I have any rights as a renter if I'm not paying rent or don't have a lease? Any advice would be appreciated!