Parents purchased a property in La Quinta, California, for their son and wife to live in while they worked as professors at a nearby college. The son and his wife lived in the home for years but moved when they were offered higher paying positions in San Diego County.
The parents decided to retain ownership of the home and offer it on an online site as a short-term rental. They were lucky to have great tenants (such as traveling nurses during COVID), until they were not.
In October 2022, an offer to rent the property came in from a husband and wife for short term housing, “while they looked to purchase a home.” The property owners explained they already had the home reserved beginning in January 2023, but they could rent it for the next 60 days.
The potential renters had just joined the online rental site, so there were no reviews on them. The owners of the property were not concerned since the online rental site claimed to “vet” members when setting up an account — or so they thought!
Immediately upon moving in, neighbors reported loud noises, lights on at all hours and lots of arguing. Police were called to the property on three separate occasions for disturbing the peace, drunk and disorderly conduct, and domestic violence.
After living in the home for 31 days, the owner sent the police to evict them for violations of their short-term rental agreement. The police, however, were not able to evict them after the renters presented the police with a short-term agreement showing they had prepaid and had rights to the property until December 29, 2022. The owner could not remove them from the property without a court order since they had been there for more than 30 days.
Due to a backlog in the courts, the property owners were advised the eviction could take about six months. The property is in Riverside County. The property owners received the water and electricity bills which were astronomically higher than they had previously been.
Fearing a water leak, the property owners sent a 24 hours’ notice to the occupants letting them know a plumber would be sent to the property. Upon the plumber’s arrival, he was denied access by the renters claiming no notice was ever given to them.
The property owners then had the Sheriff meet them at the property. The property owners showed the notice to the Sheriff but were told the owner could not have access to the property. The tenants made it clear no one would be allowed entry to the property.
When the lease expired on December 29, 2022, the property owners showed up at the property with the local sheriff to make sure it was quietly vacated. Unfortunately, the tenants had no intentions of leaving and claimed they had no place to go.
The sheriff refused to remove them from the property without the court order, because the occupants now fell under the California Landlord/Tenant rental law and a court order would be needed. The property owner was advised they could not turn off the utilities either.
The owners inquired about doing a self-directed eviction (without an attorney) with the court and were advised they would have to do a four-week online training course before they could complete the paperwork. The property owners investigated hiring an attorney, only to find out they would need a minimum retainer of $3,000.
The owners of the property hired a property manager and they were eventually able to convince the renters to vacate the property. They were fortunate to have a very experienced property manager who did a very professional job.
The property manager negotiated with the young couple and was successful in convincing the renters to move out after their lease agreement expired. Another fact that worked in the owner’s favor was there were no minor children involved. An eviction is much more difficult when there are young children involved.
Upon the renters leaving the property, it was discovered the tenants had ripped off the hinges on three interior doors; there was evidence they had burned them in the fireplace. They also damaged the door frame of the solid fire door leading from the hallway into the garage and caused damage to the garage wiring. The damage was so bad there was no longer power leading to the garage. The squatters removed working fans and tv remotes.
After completion of the inventory, it was discovered the tenants had broken the majority of the water glasses and coffee cups, as well as several plates and serving dishes. There were massive amounts of broken glass found on the floor, with chips in the tile, and dents and scratches in the wood floor from throwing the dishes.
The refrigerator doors were dented and almost all the linens needed to be replaced, as they were stained or ripped. Holes were kicked in the wall. They had also broken into the owner’s closet where supplies were stored; a six-month supply of paper products, janitorial supplies and additional linens were all taken. The damages to the property were more than $10,000.
After two months of working with the online rental site to achieve a resolution to their nightmare and reimbursement of their damages, the property owners are still waiting for answers. The property owners were told by the online site to request funds from the tenant for the damages!
There has been no offer from the online site to reimburse the owners for loss of revenue, even though they advertise on their website that they do. The property owners have spent more than $10,000 in repairs to the property and have lost the $14,000 payment from the tenant who had planned to move in on January 3, 2023.
Unfortunately, online sites that accommodate landlords and tenants, do not provide background searches. All these sites do is verify a person’s identity.
The lesson here is, beware of who you allow into your property and be aware of local laws pertaining to rental and occupancy rights. Had the property owners done their own checking they would have refused renting the property, since it appears they were professional squatters.