Real Estate & Property Law

Couple must sue to evict stranger who moved into their vacant home

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Brian and Renae Prindle never agreed to rent their Canyon County, Idaho, home to Debbra Smith. Instead, they had moved out at the end of 2015 to expedite its renovation and sale.

But Smith is now living there, as the couple discovered last month. And, because she claims to have signed a lease and paid a man who had the keys $1,550 to rent the home to her, police consider the case a civil matter. So the Prindles filed a civil lawsuit to evict her.

On Monday, when they presented evidence alleging drug use by Smith in support of a motion for an expected eviction, Judge Debra Orr denied it. Because there were no lab tests to support the couple’s claims that substances shown in photographs were actually drugs, the judge explained, they hadn’t met their burden of proof, according to KTVB and Scripps Media.

“She’s not there legally, obviously,” Orr said of Smith, who, according to the Prindles’ lawyer, moved into their home within less than a week of being evicted from a nearby home for failing to pay rent.

Smith said she understands the couple’s predicament, but has no money to move after herself being swindled by the purported landlord, the KTVB article reports.

“We’ve both been victims,” she told the judge.

Attorney Tiffany Hales, who represents the Prindles, says they must now pursue an ordinary eviction process. It could take months to get a court order to remove Smith, the Scripps article notes.

“It’s kind of rough when you own a deed to your property and you’ve got someone else who goes in there falsely and can just stay there,” Brian Prindle told KTVB. “I mean, there’s nothing the judicial system can do for you.”

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