ROWLETT (CBSNewsTexas.com) - It was the perfect first home for Jessica and Colin Davis: a four-bedroom with a pool on a quiet corner in Rowlett. But six months later, Jessica's job unexpectedly transferred to Florida, forcing them to move.
The Davises didn't want to sell, so they decided to rent to a woman they knew as Rayes Ruybal. Davis said she met her through Zillow's rental program. "They identified her, they verified her, her records came out clean," said Davis.
Davis said Ruybal asked to move in a few days early, saying the hotel she and her son were staying at was unsafe. The deposit and first month's rent payments showed as pending online, so Davis said yes. But a few days later, the checks bounced; the bank said the payments were made from a closed account.
Davis said after days of getting the runaround from Ruybal, she began digging into her new tenant. "The only name that I could come up with was a 72-year-old individual." That person, she found, did have a relative with a name she'd seen before: Heather Schwab. It was the name on the first message Davis received through Zillow. When she asked her renter about it, Davis said she told "'oh no, that's just my friend's name. I was using her Zillow account.'"
But Davis kept digging online. That's when she found CBS News Texas reports from 2017 and 2018, detailing the many evictions of Heather and William Schwab. At the time, several homeowners said the couple was exploiting the eviction process to live rent-free. One attorney had dubbed them "serial squatters," saying the Schwabs knew more about eviction laws than many lawyers.
Weeks after our first report, Heather Schwab moved to Colorado, quickly racking up two more evictions. Landlords contacted police, who arrested Schwab for felony theft. She was sentenced to six years in prison, but served just 16 months before being released in 2020.
Schwab moved into Davis's home in late July. Without any rental income, Davis said she can't afford to pay the mortgage and her own rent. "I was like, I'm going to lose my house. That's the first thing - I'm losing my home." Davis is now moving out of her apartment and in with family to help save money.
Davis said she called police and the Dallas County district attorney, only to be told it was a civil issue, not a criminal one.
"She's getting away with this, and nobody besides you guys wants to hear about it," said Davis.
We reached out to Rowlett police, who told us they would take "a second look" at the matter. When we visited the home in Rowlett, no one came to the door. Later that same day, we saw two detectives drive up and knock on the front door. No one answered but an hour after they left, we saw Heather Schwab and a young man walk out the front door.
Our phone calls to Schwab have gone to voicemail and numbers Davis said she called for references are no longer working.
Meanwhile, Davis has started the eviction process and even shut off the water. Days later, the City of Rowlett turned it back on after receiving an application from Heather Ruybal. But when the city noticed problems with the application, off it went again.
With laws in place to protect renters and eviction cases backlogged, Davis has discovered kicking out a serial squatter isn't easy. She's now fighting for her home, frustrated that there's not more help available.
"Why is Texas protecting her? Because she did this once or twice in Colorado and they put her in prison."
A spokesman for Rowlett PD tells CBS News Texas that the department is investigating.
Zillow sent us the following statement:
"Zillow strives to provide a safe online platform for renters and landlords, including connecting landlords with third-party providers who can help them thoroughly vet rental applications using credit and background checks as well as eviction histories. We prohibit any user from impersonating another person or operating under false pretenses; we take such behavior seriously and do not tolerate it on our platform."
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