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Cumming locals discover unwanted guests after time away
Brooks Farm Drive
Homeowners say that this unoccupied rental home on Brooks Farm Drive in Cumming was entered by out of state individuals and lived in for weeks, all without their knowledge or permission. - photo by Ben Hendren

After weeks away in Savannah, Vienna Ellzey and her husband came home to Cumming on July 19 with a laundry list of things to do, including checking up on a rental property they own on Brooks Farm Drive.

Pulling up to the small two-bedroom house, both were surprised to discover two large RVs parked along the driveway of what should have been an empty, unoccupied home the Ellzey’s were preparing to sell.

“And we just went up and knocked on the door,” Ellzey said. “They told us that they had rented it with the option to buy, and we knew that wasn’t true because we own the property.”

Ellzey was confused, surprised and a little scared to find unknown people in their rental home. After knocking on the door, one occupant produced a handwritten “lease” document and told her they had been given permission to enter the residence by a person who claimed to work for a rental company.

Due to the confusion and strangeness of the case, Ellzey said she quickly called the Cumming Police Department, who arrived in force within minutes.

According to a police report filed by the Cumming Police Department, when officers arrived at the residence they discovered that six people from Florida – four men and two women – had taken up residence in the two-bedroom house, along with “multiple dogs, birds and other animals.”

The occupants told officers they had found the home listed on Craigslist as a “lease-to-own” property and had dealt with a “foreign” male through email. The report states the occupants had opened an account with the Cumming Utilities Department for water and had changed the locks on the door.

“It appeared to either be a scam by the unknown "land lord" or the six individuals in the house were squatting on the residence,” an officer stated in the report, before explaining that he referred Ellzey and the case to the Magistrate Court.

According to Cumming Police Deputy Chief Aletha Barrett, because the occupants had established residency in the home and had a lease, there was nothing more they could do beyond referring the case to a formal eviction in the courts.

“There was nothing criminal about this,” Barrett said. “It’s very unfortunate, but our hands are tied.”

Barrett said as far as she knows, this incident is a first for the city, and with the way Georgia laws are written, there is almost nothing law enforcement officers can do to remove someone from a home after they have established a residence.

Just days after Cumming Police responded to the home, Ellzey said she got a call from a neighbor that added another strange turn to the incident.

“We didn’t go back over there … We just figured we’d go through the court,” she said. “But we got a call from someone who said, ‘Did you know they are gone?’”

As mysteriously as they appeared, the occupants left the home, leaving it trashed and damaged.

Ellzey said they will likely need to redo several major renovations to the home to get it back to how it was before the incident.

At this point, Barrett said they still aren’t sure if the occupants got duped by a Craigslist scam or if they are taking advantage of the law, but she thinks the law protecting homeowners could be stronger.

Barrett said that even though there may be damage to the home, the Ellzey’s only legal recourse will be through civil court.

“I want legislators to get out there and write a law that protects homeowners,” Barrett said.