LAS VEGAS – The Greater Las Vegas Association of REALTORS (GLVAR) , the City of Las Vegas (CLV) and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) have launched a new initiative geared toward removal of squatters from vacant or distressed homes.
According to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, some 3,600 vacant or distressed homes in the Northwest Area Command had unlawful occupants residing inside. They expect that number to increase by 43 percent in 2015 (to approximately 5,200 homes). A number of these dwellings, which are bank-owned and in a state of foreclosure, house criminal activities, such as meth labs or crack houses, or they become party homes.
On Oct. 1, Assembly Bill 386, approved during the last legislative session, went into effect, making it a criminal offense for squatters to re-enter a home after being removed.
The Greater Las Vegas Association of REALTOR (GLVAR) is a 12,500-member organization whose agents are often charged with listing and selling these homes. According to GLVAR President Keith Lynam, when real estate agents go to inspect the property, they find some of the homes are illegally occupied.
“More often than not, people inhabiting these dwellings are in the homes without the owner’s permission, they are not paying rent and they are engaged in some kind of criminal activity,” Lynam said. “In some cases, the unlawful occupants may claim to have leases, but in reality, the leases were most likely fraudulently given by someone claiming to either own the property or be a representative of the property owner.”
When these situations are encountered, instead of going through a lengthy eviction process, REALTORS will be able to fill out online forms and submit them to the police at a neighborhood Metro substation. Detectives will be assigned to the case and within days, and police may remove the illegal tenants from the residence in question. The REALTOR will then be able to rekey the locks on the home. A written notice will be posted on the property notifying the illegal occupants of their rights under the law to get their personal property back. They will not be allowed back into the home without a court order, which they must obtain within 21 days after being removed from the home. If they try to re-enter the property without a court order, they can be arrested.
State law requires the property owner to safeguard any personal property left in the dwelling. If the tenant does not file an affidavit with the court within 14 days requesting return of their property, the owner may dispose of it. Even if the illegal tenant files the proper paperwork with the court, the owner is still entitled to reasonable payment of costs before releasing the personal property to the occupant.
“This collaboration between the Greater Las Vegas Association of REALTORS, Metro and the City of Las Vegas is unprecedented in the Las Vegas Valley,” Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers said. “The safety of the real estate agents, protection of private property rights and cleaning up these drug dens and crack houses is fundamental to ensuring safer neighborhoods. This new approach to ousting unlawful occupants from vacant and distressed homes will not only protect homeowners’ rights, but also help clean up neighborhoods where illegal activities are taking place.”
Councilman Beers went onto say the city often loses out when squatters are illegally occupying a residence because property owners are not collecting rent and jobs are not being created.
“The economic loss facing the Las Vegas Valley because of unlawful occupants in vacant properties hurts the community,” Councilman Beers said. “Unfortunately, because we don’t have an accurate count of how many distressed or vacant homes are unlawfully occupied, we can’t put a dollar figure on the losses. Suffice it to say, in some instances people are not paying rent and they may have illegally tapped into utility boxes and are stealing electricity, water and other services.”
LVMPD Sheriff Joe Lombardo echoed Councilman Beers’ comments by saying his officers will steadfastly investigate all of the complaints filed by the REALTORS. Lombardo said lawmakers during the 2015 legislative session wanted to put some teeth into this law so that criminal elements that use vacant properties for illegal activities will face jail time after they are caught by police re-entering a home that doesn’t belong to them.
About the GLVAR
GLVAR was founded in 1947 and provides its more than 12,500 local members with education, training and political representation. The local representative of the National Association of REALTORS®, GLVAR is the largest professional organization in Southern Nevada. Each GLVAR member receives the highest level of professional training and must abide by a strict code of ethics. For more information, visit www.HomeLasVegas.com or www.LasVegasRealtor.com.