How do you recover money from a "house sitter" from damages/stolen items?

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We had someone "renting/watching" our parents former home in another state. This person came highly recommended and paying only $400/month for utilities. This person needed a place and we thought we needed someone to keep an eye on it and do a bit of upkeep/maintenance. We had an informal hand drawn up "contract". Wrong Wrong Wrong - the renter from HELL. Damage in every room: holes in walls, scratched wood floors, sloppy painting, holes in screens, pet feces/urine damage--floor needs to be replaced, broken tools, "missing" items (read stolen items). We documented including pictures of all the damage and missing items and trying to collect money from said "renter" without much success. Does anyone have any ideas on how to recover money from this person from all the damages/stolen items? I was thinking small claims court? Or should this go into that "live and learn" category?

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friendly, I fully understand how frantic it can be with two aging parents... been there, done that. Your initial thought of having a renter was a good idea, but when you get burn by one case, you never want to go down that road again.

I would mark it in the "live and learn" chapter. You could try Small Claims courts but htat can be very slow, and the renter could say someone else did the damage, etc.

The only draw backs of keeping a house, making improvements, having Dad or you pay for property taxes, insurance, utilities, and outside maintenance is if Dad lives hopefully many more years, runs out of self-pay monies, and needs to go onto Medicaid which will pay for his care. Even if a house is listed in a Will to go to a relative, any dwelling that your Dad owns Medicaid will place a lien on said houses. The lien comes due once Dad passes.
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freqflyer - no they were the ones to do the damage and we kicked this person out a few days before we arrived to clean up the place. The insurance carrier has it listed "vacation home" and didn't let them know of a "renter". Dad will not be returning to the house - it is willed to a family member who isn't quite ready to move in yet. I'm POA and executor so have made improvements on the house. We thought we needed someone to stay in the house for security, etc but through this experience WE WILL NOT BE GOING THROUGH THIS AGAIN. Said family member it's willed to will be making more visits to the house instead. We do have a trusted neighbor and other trusted folks keeping an eye on it. We just got the wrong person to live there in a frantic time dealing with two aging parents in failing health. Thanks so much for your advise too.
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GardenArtist - yes we got a small deposit one month rent. Have a list of repairs and cost of replacement for items "missing" (stolen). No we didn't get any financial info thou have a copy of a check. Yes, we do know where this person is now living-they purchased a home not far away. Know somewhat where they work too. No scam think this is how this person "takes care of things" never knowing/learning how to take care of something especially when it doesn't belong to you. Recommended by two trusty individuals no longer in the area. Though I could still email them and say how disappointed with the "renter" they recommended. Thanks for all the great advise.
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friendly, one thing you need to do is know for sure that this renter had caused the damage. Might be a case where the renter moved out early, and squatters found a way to get into the house.

You might try contacting your Dad's homeowner's insurance carrier to see if damages can be covered. But note, if your Dad or his Power of Attorney didn't tell the insurance carrier that he was moving and the house would be vacant, the carrier might not pay.

I see from your profile that your Dad is now in skilled nursing care. Is there a reason that he is keeping the house?  Will he be returning to said house?  It isn't easy maintaining a house that is out-of-state. I had rental property out-of-state but I always used a Realtor to find the tenant, and a company to manage the property. Yes, expensive, but well worth the cost and having peace of mind.... lesson learned.
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Did you get a deposit? If so, keep it as part of remuneration for the damage.

I would also get an estimate for repair as well as for the stolen items. That will give you an idea of the base figure for which to sue. It's very, very good that you've documented well.

Before you rented, did you get any financial information on the renter and his/her assets? Do you have checks for the rent? Credit card information? SSN? Anything you can attach if you are successful in getting a judgment? I.e., you can attach the person's bank account to satisfy the judgment.

Did this person have a home address, any property assets of his/her own?

And equally important, do you know where this person is now?

It sounds as though you're resourceful, so I would try to determine what's necessary to sue in a small claims court, or district court, or whatever level would include the range of claims, plus damages, in your state. I.e., some courts have jurisdiction up to a given amount, then jurisdiction passes to a higher level court.

It wouldn't hurt to consult a real estate, landlord/tenant attorney or even have him/her handle the case. I think an attorney involved puts more fear into a destructive tenant than a private individual. And an attorney might be able to suggest other remedies.

You might also be able to notify the 3 credit reporting companies so that this would affect the individual's ability to do this again (and I suspect this isn't the first time).

Lastly, I think the police should be notified; I've wondered as I've read your post a few times if this isn't something that's been done before, in different areas. Perhaps that's how this person survives, by stealing from older people.

How did you find this person? I would also notify them so that if there's any company involved, they know that this person is committing larceny and malicious destruction of property. And definitely notify the person who "highly recommended" this thief; perhaps they were working together as a scam team.
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