An Idaho couple, desperate to remove a woman they say moved into a vacant for-sale home of theirs without permission, got a shocker recently when a judge denied their request for an expedited eviction.
"We don't have any rights right now," Brian Prindle told ABC affiliate KIVI-TV on Monday after the court hearing. "I'm sick to my stomach," his wife, Renea Prindle, said.
In 2015, the Prindles moved out of the home in Nampa, Idaho, to fix it up and put it on the market. They said they went by the home regularly. In March, when they found a buyer out of California for the property, the Prindles again checked on the home and say they got quite the surprise: A woman they didn't know had taken up residence.
Debbra Smith said she'd signed a one-year lease to rent the home from a man and had given him more than $1,500 in deposits and rent.
"[He] had the key, went in, showed me the house," Smith told KIVI-TV.
The Prindles said they'd never heard of either the supposed lessor or Smith. The Prindles' names are not on Smith's lease.
"I don't know if this is a lease that she made up. I don't know if somebody scammed her. But it was clearly not a lease that was authorized by the homeowners," the Prindles' lawyer, Tiffany Hales, told KIVI-TV.
When the Prindles called police, they said they were told that Smith had a lease and could stay.
"They told me, I have every right to stay there if I have nowhere else to go because I did have the lease," Smith said.
The Prindles and their lawyer had requested an expedited eviction based on Idaho code that allows for faster proceedings if there is evidence that a tenant has used, produced or sold drugs in the residence.
Brian and Renea Prindle told KIVI-TV that they'd found two small bags that smelled like marijuana in the home, but that they'd failed to get them tested.
"I just didn't realize the judge would ask for it to be tested," Renea Prindle said. "It's kind of hard to test something when you're not allowed to take anything from the home."
The Prindles have not been allowed in the home by the police and were told to give Smith privacy. In a statement, Nampa police said the prosecutor's office had informed authorities that the case was a "civil matter."
Facing rising legal fees, the couple filed regular eviction paperwork today that gives Smith 20 days to respond. The process could take an additional 60 to 90 days.
After Monday's ruling, the Prindles said they could possibly lose the sale because the buyer might back out.
"We told the cops we don't know this woman," Renea Prindle said. "Our home is not for rent. Our signatures are not on the lease agreement. ... She's trespassing. ... We're not landlords and she's not our tenant."