Being a long distance landlord makes it easier for these crimes to happen to you. I have no doubt these people profiled your mom from the beginning and knew exactly what they were going to do. The only way you guard yourself from this is checking up on the property regularly. This may mean living next door or mowing there lawns on the weekend. Unfortunately many long distance landlords get fleeced in ways like this and that is why most people here do not recommend becoming a long distance landlord.
If you really want to be secure, put into the lease that YOU will personally change the ac/heat air filter every 2 months or so. Minor inconvenience, but for that 10 minute visit you end any possibility of the scenario you just described, and you will know if they are mistreating your home in advance.
I have no doubt these people profiled your mom from the beginning and knew exactly what they were going to do.
No doubt. Too bad they were done in by a little girl... and her dog.
The sheriff across the street probably isn't going to let this go either.
All the neighbors (who've known my mom for a decade and a half) have offered to keep a better eye on the property. Doubtless, they don't want to see their neighborhood turned into a crime scene. But are nosey neighbors enough?
What about outside services? Would they manage a property at any level of detail to prevent such a thing from happening again?
I appreciate your insights. I have no experience in this area, and I know we have a lot of savvy people on this site.
My father has a dozen or so rental units and puts a pretty tight filter on his applicants. I think he has had 1 or 2 that were doing some sort of grow operation (small scale) in their apartment.
The house I am in the process of buying had a hidden room that was dug out of the crawlspace. A neighbor tells me (unequivocally) that it was a grow room that a long term tenant made.
Just anecdotal data, but I'm not surprised by what you described. If the damage is minor, I wouldn't sweat it and move on. It's a bit out of band, but dealing with BS is part of the rental business. Be glad they weren't cooking meth.