Property rights in question after lease scam

Posted at 9:48 PM, Apr 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-08 23:50:02-04

A shocked Nampa couple who discovered a complete stranger moved in to their vacant home has people across the Treasure Valley talking.

The woman living inside the house is a single mom claiming she signed a lease to rent the house from a man the true owners have never heard of: Daniel Brink.

“Well, it just doesn't make any sense,” Boise lawyer and real estate expert Wyatt Johnson said. “You've got a fictitious person here. If somebody doesn't own property, or have title to it or have some sort of a tendency to it, they can't rent it to someone else.”

Yet, it's happening in neighborhoods across the country, and here in the Treasure Valley leaving property owners like the Prindle family confused on what their rights are as property owners.

“We had no idea what our rights were to our property,” Renea Prindle said. “Our locks had been changed so we had no way of getting into our home. She's claiming that this third party is the one that changed the locks on the house and handed her the keys.”

“These forms are really easy to get,” Johnson said. “You can just go online and print out one of these lease agreements.”

When they discovered strangers staying at their home, the Prindles called law enforcement for assistance, but were shocked by the response.

“The police basically said, 'this is a civil matter and you have to leave, you have to go home and you have to contact an attorney,’ and there was nothing we could do,” Prindle said.

But Johnson says there’s reasoning behind that reply, as police on scene have no way of determining who’s being truthful and who’s not.

“In terms of a residential lease, it isn't their function to determine whether it's a valid lease or not, they just don't know, and they don’t have the available information,” Johnson explained. “This woman who's in possession could've had every right to be there, and these people who were coming to look at the property, they might've been the dishonest ones.”

“You can imagine, without the courts intervening, what you have is you have a system where you'd have some lawlessness and you'd have brute force enforcing property rights and that's just now how we resolve these disputes,” Johnson continued. “I would imagine you had an officer who was basically trying to keep the peace, and if it's something where nobody's going to get hurt or injured, I think that they try and resolve conflict and I imagine that's probably what you had the officer doing.”

Now both parties are heading to court.

“That's what the court's job is, to hear both sides of the story and decide where the truth is coming from,” Johnson said. “The judge will be tasked with deciding whether or not [the tenant] is telling a credible story or not; in either case, I don't know that it makes a lot of difference.”

That’s because in this case, the true property owners’ names are nowhere to be found on the fraudulent lease.

Johnson also says if the judge determines the “tenant” was also defrauded, they may give the woman more time to find somewhere new to live.

Typically, it could take months or even more than a year to make the court’s schedule, unless you meet an exception. The Prindles were able to file for an expedited eviction through their attorney because they say they found drug paraphernalia in the home.

The judge will now decide if the woman living in the home is responsible to pay the rightful property owners for rent and/or property damage.

Their hearing is scheduled for Monday, April 11 at 9:00 a.m.

Check back for updates.