By MEL MARTIN
THEY are owed thousands in rent, their house is trashed but the insurance won't pay, their belongings are gone, and they are receiving death threats, yet Melissa and Shane Eichmann say tenancy laws still stand against them.
When new tenants moved into Melissa and Shane's Coffs Harbour property in April, it didn't take them long to realise the tenants had no intention of ever paying a cent in rent, and were terrifying the neighbours.
So the Eichmanns, who managed the property themselves, set about evicting them.
What ensued was a three month battle which has left Melissa and Shane not only devastated, but fuming at a system they say has done nothing to help them.
It took three eviction notices before tribunal was possible ? the first two notices were invalid, one for being served incorrectly and the other worded incorrectly ? which meant another six weeks without rent.
At the tribunal, the magistrate ordered the tenants to vacate, and that's when the death threats began.
"As I walked out of the courthouse, she (the tenant) was following me down the street, screaming at me, calling me every name in the book," Shane said.
"Then she called Melissa and said she was going to kill us, and the house was going to be destroyed.
"Since then, Melissa's mum has received six death threats."
Eventually, after more delays, the eviction warrant was issued, but Melissa and Shane's nightmare had only just begun.
"We went to the house with two sheriffs and five police officers. They went through the house first, and as they came out, they said we weren't going to like what we were about to see," Melissa said.
What they found was not only litter through the house, broken windows and smashed walls, they also discovered drugs, pills, syringes, overdose kits, portable syringe bins, even handcuffs.
They also found two dogs, which were later taken to the pound.
The tenants had broken into a storeroom in which Shane and Melissa stored some of their belongings.
They had used some of these belongings as firewood ? but had lit the fires outside the fireplace, which caused extensive smoke damage through the lounge room and the house.
"I found my things all over the house," Melissa said.
"Baby clothes I wanted to keep, and I'd left some jewellery in there, which she must be wearing. I just can't describe how this makes you feel, you just feel invaded."
Even more concerning, the Eichmanns discovered other people's identifications and bank account details, as well as a book in which all their own details had been noted.
"They had written down our bank account details, credit card number, Medicare card numbers, everything," Shane said.
"We haven't slept in three months, it's put so much pressure on us."
And now, the Eichmanns not only face a huge clean up job ? which they have to do themselves as no cleaning company would tackle the hazardous waste ? they estimate the house needs about $7000 worth of repairs on top of the $4000 in rent they are never going to see.
But they can't claim the damage on their landlord insurance because they would have to prove the damage was malicious rather than negligent.
They have also had to cover the cost of hiring the services of a security company to patrol the house surroundings.
And as a final kick in the teeth, Melissa and Shane say the Department of Fair Trading rang to ask them to pay for the tenant's dogs to be taken out of the pound.
"For the Department of Fair Trading to ring us after all of it and still defend their rights, it's just disgusting," Shane said.
"We just can't believe they can get away with it."