A Lauderhill, Fla., woman returned home after being away for a month to find that her keys no longer fit in her door and a stranger had moved into her house and claimed they were renting it.
Sylvia Breakenridge told ABCNews.com that it took several weeks to get the strangers out of her home, but now police are trying to determine who created the rental scam.
”My keys couldn’t get in the house at all. Then I went to the back of the house. The window is broken in…I listened and I heard a TV and the AC is running, but nobody is supposed to be in the house,” Breakenridge said of her Sept. 7 discovery. “I went back to the front of the house and knocked constantly for five minutes.”
Breakenridge, 51, said that somebody finally came out of the house and told her that they were renting the home. Breakenridge and her husband primarily live in West Palm, Fla., where they run a Jamaican restaurant, but they still float back and forth to their property in Lauderhill.
“They were sleeping on my king size bed, [using] my television, my stereo set…another queen size bed,” she said.
While some of Breakenridge’s furniture was being used, most of it was gone, including picture albums of her two children, she said.
Cheryl Heath, one of the women who was living in the home, told ABC Affiliate WPLG that she responded to an advertisement on Craigslist posted by someone claiming to be an agent for “Dunbar Properties.”
“I signed a lease, and I got two receipts for September’s rent and for August — first, last and security. I gave him $2,400,” Heath told WPLG.
Breakenridge told ABCNews.com, however, that the lease was written out to someone named James Smith and that the receipt was for cash.
The owner said the police initially told her she would have to get an eviction notice, but a judge ruled last week that Heath had to get out of the house.
A public information officer for the Lauderhill Police Department told ABCNews.com that they are in the process of tracking down phone records to figure out how Heath rented the home. No arrests have been made.
Breakenridge said that Heath left the home last week, but many of her things are still missing.