Removing Squatters: What Landlords Need to Know
By: Ed Kania, President, Southern Nevada Eviction Services
In the fairytale "Goldilocks and the Three Bears," the bear family comes home to find someone sitting in their chairs, eating their porridge and sleeping in their beds. Lately, fairy tales have become reality for many property owners when they find a real-life "Goldilocks" (aka, a "squatter") has taken up residence in their empty real estate. Because Nevada laws are very specific on how to remove a squatter from property, and courts will often impose steep fines for owners who do not follow such laws, it is critical for property owners/managers to understand their rights as they relate to squatters.
Many landlords believe the solution to removing a "squatter" is simple: change the locks! However, Nevada law specifically prohibits changing the locks, or otherwise depriving the squatter of access to the premises (i.e. turning off utilities, blocking access to the community), without an eviction court order. A squatter who is locked out without a court order may file a Motion for Illegal Lockout and the courts may fine the property owner up to $2,500 plus any actual damages that the squatter incurred (i.e. hotel bills, meals, etc.). Nevada law and courts treat squatters as tenants and consequently, a property owner cannot remove the squatter without court authorization.
To legally remove a squatter, the first step is to serve a Five Day Tenancy at Will Notice. The notice must contain legal language required by statute and must be delivered (and potentially mailed) to the squatter. If the squatter does not vacate by the expiration of the notice, the property owner must post a Five Day Unlawful Detainer Notice. If the squatter still does not vacate, the owner must file an Affidavit of Complaint for Summary Eviction. Only then will the court issue an eviction order and direct the Constable’s Office to remove the squatter.
Squatters are a blight on communities and are often no more than common criminals. However, until the Legislature changes the law, the only recourse that owners have is to utilize the eviction process. Only then can the property owner/manager live happily ever after.
The right community association management company will be able to guide you to the appropriate subject experts to ensure the proper handling of the eviction process for an association-owned unit. For more support and guidance on successfully maintaining your community, contact FirstService Residential.
Reference: Ed Kania is the President of Southern Nevada Eviction Services (SNES) which prepares and posts eviction-related notices and files evictions in Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson. To learn more about the eviction process or to find out what SNES can do for you, please visit www.vegas-evictions.com.