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I recently found out that the prior housekeeper for our vacation home has been using it for her own freebie weekend getaways -- unknown to me. She left the house clean. The neighbors saw her and spoke to her as she left, so there is no question. (No, I didn't change the lock box code. Yes, I am apparently too trusting. But in my defense, she was the housekeeper for 2 homes I rented for my family.) We are installing a ResortLock system..
She's still in town. Should I report this to the police as breaking/entering? Should I confront her? I am advising the other people for whom she did housekeeping as they are also long distance owners. Frankly, I'd like to tell her current employer, too!
Although I have no doubt that you are correct in your assumptions, the neighbors seeing her and speaking to her are not necessarily legal proof of anything. So, unless she confesses, reporting this to the police will most likely result in a legal quagmire. I do not have that much confidence in our justice system for things like this.
That said, I would call her and ask what she was doing over there (she will most likely lie). Just so she knows that you know.
Change your codes. Alert your fellow homeowners. Probably some sort of vague report to her employer (let them figure it out).
Buy the software package with Resort Lock and it will keep record of whom you give access codes to and when they enter and leave.
It appears this is not your current housekeeper as you refer to her as the "prior housekeeper".
I think part of the answer to what to do is for you to answer the question, "what do you hope to accomplish?"
As someone already pointed out, there doesn't seem to be proof she stayed in your property, or is there tangible proof she stayed over on weekends that is not mentioned?
Did you fire her for transgressions of some sort? Was she re-assigned by a management company?
By reporting her to the police, informing other owners she works for, or taking other actions to expose her you will be destroying her chances for employment. That's ok if that's what you wish to do.
Did she steal? Did she harm you? Or, do you feel she "pulled one over on you?"
I'm not saying to let it go, but other than ruining her reputation and livelihood, what is there to do?
Again, what do you want to accomplish?
She should have asked about staying at your property if she had need of a place to stay. I allowed my housecleaner and her family to live in my property for one month (during the off season) while she secured new housing.
It's hard to know what to advise in this situation, especially since much of what you are writing about appears to be in the past.
Perhaps the best and least stressful path is to just let it go.
That's probably not what you want to hear - sorry.
Thanks for the responses, folks. Here's more clarification:
1) She cleaned my house ONCE. This isn't someone who has a relationship with me.
2) She quit all of her jobs because she was moving. Apparently, she didn't move.
3) She called me and asked to rent my house for a few days (several days later), but in fact what she was doing was making sure it was vacant. She moved in the day she called me, moved out the day before she was going to "move in," told me she'd sent a check, and then retracted that statement that night, saying she couldn't afford it.
4) There is no question it was this woman. It's a locked gated house. She knew the code, snuck in, and tried to sneak out, but the neighbors saw and spoke to her. It's just a nicer place than her apartment in town, that's all.
So, what do I want to accomplish? I want to make sure she never does it again, to anyone. Do I want her in jail, at taxpayer expense? No. And you're right, the police probably wouldn't do anything except maybe scare her. I think it'll be enough for me to talk to her, to let her know that I know. I will alert the other vacation rental owners.
It creeps me out to think of someone sneaking in and out (and she also snuck her friends in the weekend before). Oh, and she left the lock box set to open so anyone could walk right in.
Thank you for providing more information.
I think it would strike me as odd if my house cleaner(s) wanted to rent my property. My house cleaners can't afford my house and I would be skeptical of receiving any payment. Red flag.
And, if she cleaned your house once, you didn't know her at all. Red flag.
I do think you should just let this go. You've been burned and I understand it's distressing - It's natural to want to take some action, but you can't possibly do anything to prevent her from taking advantage of someone else in the future. She may very well do it again. She may have done this previously - once or several times. People who take advantage look for vulnerabilities in order to do so - she had the code and the property was vacant - let's go!
Short of making her wear a scarlet letter for everyone to see, how can you prevent her acting unscrupulously in the future?
If you want to talk to her, talk to her. If you think other homes are vulnerble you might advise the owners to be certain they update their entry security.
I would chalk it up to experience, move on, and be certain to update your code from now on.
And, of course, this is just one person's opinion and may be disregarded in part or in it's entirety.
It is extremely unlikely this would be viewed as a criminal matter since she was authorized access, even though the authority did not extend to the time and purpose of her use. Rather, it could be a civil matter, and you could consult an attorney regarding filing a lawsuit against her for trespass, but the cost to you certainly is not worth it.
You could send her a bill for the fair rental value for the times you know she was using the home, and when she does not pay you could refer the bill to a collection agency.
But perhaps just letting her know that her conduct was unacceptable and that she should not be looking to you for a reference will be sufficient. Often it is best just to let things like this go.
If her employer is a PM, it might be good to alert them for their own protection.
I am sorry you are going through this, and I do think you should report it to everyone who can assist in, or benefit from, the situation.
I do think you should tell her current employer of your suspicions.
I placed a lot of trust in a former caretaker, she was full of rosy promises. I arrived at my house, not even unannounced, to find vomit all over the bathroom. I think it was being used as a party house by my cleaning woman.
You have to be so careful, and unfortunately, you have to drop in on people.
Get a camera people!!! I have cameras at the front doors of my properties and in my rental contracts. It's peace of mind and you would know if someone was there that was not supposed to be. In addition, it scares away renters that intend to mislead you with their purpose such as large locals party, large wedding reception type deal, sneaking in animals to pet free homes, more guests than they list on the contract etc.
I honestly think every rental home that can accommodate a camera at the front door should do so. I use Logitech Alert outdoor camera that records in 720p HD and can be remotely viewed by your smart phone, ipad or any computer in the world. You can view past footage etc. I have mine automatically delete after 14 days.
If you live far from your property then I know you worry about your property if you haven't been there in weeks or months. Is it still standing? Is it flooded? Did anyone break in to steal the flat panel tv's? Is there a squatter? I use a combination of alarm and camera to soothe any fear I have and can literally control the home from my phone or desk from thermostats, lights, locks, burglary notification, trespassers etc.
I watched 2 "looky loos" at my property yesterday. Two different groups pulled into my driveway, got out and walked all around my property, peeking in the windows etc. I'm happy to know that I could determine they meant no harm and know that if they were unscrupulous individuals casing my house, I would have had the police there in a heart beat.
Feel free to contact me if you need info on the cameras or alarm system