Drug raid turns to nightmare for property owner
AN EERIE silence as landlord Sueann Bennett approached her Buderim home for a routine inspection was the first sign something had gone awry.
During her previous check-ups, tenants had a few vehicles parked in the driveway and there were usually the sounds associated with people being at home.
Her afternoon on July 7 descended into a homeowner's nightmare after she knocked on the front door and the lock barrel fell to the ground.
A voice from inside the home told her she would have to come around the back because the front door had been broken during a police raid early that morning.
Ms Bennett found a woman, who was not a tenant, had started to do a bit of cleaning in the ground-floor area.
Her actual tenants, a woman aged in her 60s as well as her two adult children, had been taken away by police.
The visiting woman was ordered to vacate as Ms Bennett started to take stock of the damage.
Locks on the external and internal doors had been broken, boards on a wooden walkway ripped up and rooms rifled through.
"I went around and secured it the best that I could and left it that night because I was just in tears and didn't want to deal with it," Ms Bennett said.
When she returned the next afternoon, the house had been broken into and ransacked.
Police were called and did a report but thieves returned again two nights after that and stole all of the electrical equipment in the home.
The rooms were thoroughly ransacked on that occasion.
There were a few days of rest before thieves again returned on Tuesday last week and broke into a storage shed.
Ms Bennett has since cleared everything out of the property and started cleaning it to move in.
It is a huge and overwhelming task, magnified by the fact much of her time is dedicated to a cafe she owns and operates in Maroochydore.
"My daughters have helped me out and their partners and a couple of friends."
The circumstances which led to her predicament slowly snowballed to the current situation.
Ms Bennett bought the home in 2012 with the intention of living in it with her family but work commitments meant she had to move to a rental property elsewhere.
With a mortgage to pay she put the home up for rent with a real estate agent but after six weeks, it was still unoccupied.
Desperate to get some income, she advertised the home online for private rent.
Tenants moved in late in January.
Ms Bennett said they had payslips to show they earned good income and had identification.
She checked their details on a real estate blacklist and they did not show up so she entered into a Residential Tenancies Authority-backed agreement with them.
They paid their rent, cash straight into her bank account, every week.
The house had been clean on previous inspections but she had noticed a few extra cars in the driveway on one occasion.
Ms Bennett's advice was to steer clear of advertising properties online.
"If you do, pay and get police checks done."
She understood why police had raided the home but was angry she had not been told about it and nothing had been done to repair the damage they did.
"If I wasn't around, I wouldn't have known for a week or two (about the raid)."
She had mixed feelings about moving back in.
"I did like it, I'm sure I will again one day."
A Queensland Police Service spokeswoman said police did not have to contact the owner of a property before a raid was conducted.
"As this house was rented privately, there is no way of knowing what the relationship was between the owner and tenant," the spokeswoman said.
She said the responsibility for the cost of the damage was to the people in charge of the premises, which in Ms Bennett's case meant the tenants.