Hat tip to Susie for sending in this story from Potato Land!
The list price for the house was $134,900, and the photos on Zillow made it obvious that the house was vacant:
CALDWELL — A Canyon County couple is back to the drawing board after a judge ruled against allowing them to fast-track the eviction of a stranger who moved into their house without permission.
Brian and Renae Prindle discovered last month that someone was living inside the home at 37 South Westwood they had put up for sale.
The pair said they checked on the vacant property multiple times a month. Brian Prindle testified Monday that he stopped by the house March 25 after his wife noticed rocking chairs in front of the home had been moved.
Inside the home were several people, including a woman who told Prindle she lived there and had a lease.
The woman, Debbra Smith, said she moved into the home after calling a number on a sign advertising rental properties. Smith said she believed the person she dealt with was the owner – she gave him more than $1,500 in rent and deposits, and he gave her a key to the house.
The Prindles say police told them the issue was a civil matter, and they weren’t allowed to just kick Smith out.
Instead, the couple has been forced to wade into the thorny eviction process, even though Smith was never their tenant and is not paying them any money to stay in the house.
In the meantime, the property has found a buyer in California who wants to close on the house this week.
Renea Prindle said the situation has left her feeling “sick to my stomach.”
“It’s highly possible we could lose the sale of the home after everything we went through to make it happen,” she said.
The pair say Smith has allowed her cat to relieve itself on the carpet indoors, and someone has repeatedly kicked the walls of the home, leaving marks.
They also accused the woman of using drugs, and brought pictures they had taken of marijuana bags and pipes they say they found in the house to court Monday to plead their case. Under Idaho law, homeowners and landlords can expedite the eviction process if a tenant is using or selling drugs on the property.
But Judge Debra Orr denied the Prindles’ request, saying there was no proof the substances in the photos were drugs because they had not been tested in a lab.
Orr said she understood the homeowners’ predicament, but that they needed to pursue a traditional eviction to get Smith out.
“She’s not there legally, obviously,” Orr told the couple. “There’s a way to get her out properly, but you have not met your burden [of evidence of drug use.]”
Smith denied using drugs, and argued the Prindles were not the only ones who had been swindled.
“We’ve both been victims,” she told the judge. “They’re frustrated – I understand that.”
She said the pair had cut off power and water to the home in order to force her out, and had briefly taken the locks off the doors, resulting in some of her belongings being stolen.
Smith said she had been unable to find another place to live after the Prindles asked her to move out, and had given all her money to the man with the fake lease.
But the Prindles’ attorney Tiffany Hales cast doubt on Smith’s story, noting the woman had been evicted from a home near the Westwood Street house for not paying rent just five days before turning up on the Prindles’ property.