House sitter issue
We arranged for a house/pet sitter for what was to be a lengthy holiday. Although she had a clean police check and was referred by a friend who had used her services many times, we were lucky the cats were alive and the house wasn't burnt to the ground on our return.
This was arranged so we would have a live in pet sitter during our absence for security of our and pets, and the home. This woman in her sixties moved her new Internet boyfriend of five weeks into the house without our permission the day after we left. Her promise to Skype us on a regular basis so we could see our happy cats proved to be a lie as her old computer was manufactured without a camera? One photo mailed to us showed two unhappy cats with ears at half mast. When she e-mailed that our shy reclusive cat had bit her we began to wonder what was really going on.
When frequent phone calls were never answered I e-mailed her to ask if everything was okay. She said that that very day she was on her way to the mainland for a few days to assist her daughter in Vancouver, leaving a key to my house with someone who was a perfect stranger to us, without our permission. She did not provide a name, phone number or address for this individual and when I emailed back and asked she gave me a name, a false street address and no phone number. This woman was coming in feeding only and not staying over night. Friends started emailing about the lack of activity as they drove by our house.
I flew thousands of miles home only to find a stranger watching TV in my bedroom. She said that in fact the original sitter left three days prior to when the sitter had told me she left, and the story she gave her was that she had urgent business in Alberta? The substitute was not able to stay overnight as she was pet sitting elsewhere in town. Security was clearly at risk.
The house looked like a cross between a squat and a frat house after a long weekend party. It took thirty hours of work to return it to the condition I left it in. Clothing and flammable items were pushed up against electric baseboard heaters in three rooms. I am surprised the house had not burnt to the ground, as it was empty for days. The kitty litter had not been emptied in the three weeks since we had left, and every unwashed cat food can was sitting in the filthy kitchen.
When the sitter and her boyfriend returned after a one week absence I fired her, and she loaded her belongings which I had moved to an outside porch. I had been home for three days cleaning, and trying to comfort my stressed cats who obviously experienced unknown trauma.
I know there are some very good people out there pet sitting. However be aware that interviews, a police check, references and the fact that someone is registered on a house-sitting website are not a guarantee. Think about dropping in on them unexpectedly in their own home or other homes while they are house sitting to get an idea of how they live day to day. This individual I have learned does no clean up after herself or do normal home maintenance, until the homeowners arrival is imminent. It is wise to provide them with a key that can not be copied. That ensures your security after they leave. I had all my locks changed.
Hopefully this will save others from this unfortunate experience.