How to Legally Remove Unauthorized Occupant
More and more landlords these days are experiencing a very troubling magic trick: one day their property is empty and the next – ta-da—a squatter. While the natural inclination may be to try to forcibly remove the unauthorized occupant, Nevada law frowns on such “self-help” and the Courts will fine landlords who try to skirt the court system and take matters into their own hands. Therefore, it is critical that landlords understand the legal process to remove the squatter from their property.
For the purpose of Nevada’s squatters law, “squatters” (or “unauthorized occupants”) refer to individuals who break into a vacant property and set up residency or who break into the property and trick other individuals to reside in the property. The terms do not refer to subletting by the tenant, short-term rental situations, or instances where the tenant allows an additional occupant to move into the premises and then subsequently vacates and leaves the occupant in possession.
Nevada’s squatters law has created two new crimes relating to squatters: “housebreaking” and “unlawful occupancy.” The process that a landlord will utilize to remove the occupants will depend on whether the occupants were arrested for these two crimes. Therefore, the first step that a landlord should take when discovering squatters is to contact law enforcement and inform them that there may be squatters on the premises.
If the occupants are arrested by law enforcement for one of these two crimes and all of the occupants are removed from the property, the landlord may change the locks on the property without needing to go through the eviction process. However, at the time that the landlord re-takes the premises, they must post a Notice of Retaking Possession and/or Changing Locks on the property. The notice must remain on the property for twenty-one days and the squatters will have those twenty one days to contact the landlord to retrieve their belongings. In addition, within twenty-four hours of posting the notice, the landlord must also file a Statement Regarding Retaking Possession with the appropriate Justice Court. Furthermore, during the twenty-one-day period, the squatters can file a Verified Complaint with the Justice Court stating that they were in lawful possession of the property. The Court will then evaluate the Complaint and decide how to proceed.
If the tenants aren’t arrested by law enforcement, the landlord cannot simply change the locks. Instead, the landlord must post a Four Day Notice to Surrender. The tenant will have four days to vacate the property. If the tenant does not vacate, the landlord must then file a Complaint for Removal with the Justice Court. The Court will either grant the complaint and issue an eviction order or will schedule a hearing on the matter. If there is a hearing, the landlord needs to be prepared with the dates that they knew that the property was empty and when they discovered the squatters. If the complaint is granted, the Constable will remove the squatters. Once again, the squatters will have 21 days to retrieve their belongings.
With the current economic downturn, more landlords are finding squatters in their properties. It is critical to understand Nevada’s squatters law and for landlords to swiftly and correctly take legal action to re-take possession of their property.
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.