POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Vacation rental homes on the Polk/Osceola County border are being targeted by party hosts pretending to be essential workers, according to a property manager who had to clean up the mess left behind by one of these parties.
“This, of course, was the entertainment center that was all up on the wall. They ripped it down,” said Rebecca Holloway in one of the Davenport rental homes she manages as the owner of AAA Lux Villas.
The home in Championsgate, like so many others, is intended to be rented out to families visiting the Orlando theme parks.
There are images of Mickey Mouse on the doors and princesses in the bedrooms.
But this week, those wholesome images are surrounded by destruction and filth.
“We just found the home utterly destroyed. They left everything behind it. They left drugs behind. Just anything that you could think of that you could find in a club party, unfortunately, was here. They left and they didn’t have [any] regard. They didn’t care,” Hollaway said.
Vacation rental home owners have been unable to do business for months during the pandemic.
Polk County’s ban on vacation rentals was just lifted Wednesday.
The homeowner, who lives out of state, had reservations about booking this particular renter this week.
She was told not to rent to Floridians.
This man presented a letter stating he provided “essential services to the sanitation, security, repair and maintenance of residential properties.”
“She really thought that she was helping out workers, coming up here, having to work that didn’t want to book a separate hotel room,” Hollaway said.
After finding the home destroyed, Hollaway did some research.
The party hosts secure a rental home then circulate party invitations on social media.
If they behave like they did at this Davenport home, they trash the place and move on.
“They’re running, like, almost like club parties out of the homes. They’re causing thousands of dollar worth of damage. Our guy assessed it yesterday, he said it would probably take about $4,000 easy to get this home back up to par,” she said.
They destroyed an entertainment center, kicked in a bathroom door, left behind drugs, dozens of bags of trash and stole X-box systems, according to Hollaway.
Hollaway and her assistant have spent days cleaning. They are throwing away all the linens. Bodily fluids were found throughout the home.
When they called the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office, Hollaway said, they told her it was a civil matter.
“They caused damages in excess of what would be considered a felony. They’ve stolen items out of the house. So how can that not be criminal? How can you just tell a homeowner, well, it’s your fault. You rented it to someone, so it’s your fault,” she said.
The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office told 8 On Your Side many renters intend to use the homes for the “sole purpose of throwing a monster party.”
“This is a civil agreement and needs to be worked out though a civil attorney,” said Major Jacob Ruiz with the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office. “These residences are privately owned and constitutionally we are unable to kick people out of these homes. We have and will continue to enforce parking violations and noise ordinance complaints as they apply. It is important to know that we do not tow vehicles from private property unless used in a criminal offense.”
Major Ruiz recommends homeowners require renters to pay a large deposit to cover any damages and they should conduct research on the renters.
“Homeowners should use extreme caution when renting these types of properties to local customers,” he wrote in a statement.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office told 8 On Your Side it is definitely an issue.
They have taken criminal action through noise complaints and fraudulent purchases in connection to parties on the Polk County side of the border, according to spokesperson Scott Wilder.
He advises homeowners to request more specific information than what is required, ask to see a driver’s license, check Google and Facebook, and speak to renters on the phone.
Also, be sure to Google the address of the property. That way you can see if a party flyer is circulating online about your property.
“They work really hard to get this dream so somebody to come in and do this, and what they do is just really sad. It’s really sad that this is going on and it needs to stop,” said Hollaway.
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