A problem of widespread and acute intensity in Southern California, squatting in vacant homes isn’t unknown to Las Vegas, either. For homeowners who have second homes for vacationing in Nevada or condominiums used primarily for intermittent or seasonal business in the Silver State, squatters who move into their property can be more than a nuisance: they can cost the homeowner tens of thousands of dollars in repairs and months of time to reclaim their property, according to some Las Vegas real estate lawyers familiar with the practice. This article in a local online California newspaperspells out the troubles and gives tips that homeowners can implement to prevent and deal with squatters in their homes.
And for now, unfortunately, it has little to do with the law. Homeowners are resorting to vigilante justice, involving threats backed by posse and bull mastiff to remove squatters found in their and friends’ properties. Which is why Las Vegas real estate lawyers have their eyes on the new legislation making its way through California courts: if their neighboring state can figure out a way to effectively deal with squatters in a court of law, Nevadans might feel better about leaving their homes empty.
As it is, though, horror stories abound of individuals and families alike breaking in to homes and condominiums and vandalizing the property, destroying furnishings and tapping public utilities illegally—a bill the homeowner has to foot. Some squatters rig up fake lease agreements, making it confusing and difficult for police officers responding to squatting complaints to discern whether the squatters are in fact, trespassing.
Las Vegas real estate lawyers like Michael Van have said that owners end up spending thousands of dollars on evictions and legal fees. Real estate deals have fallen through, and some “homes have gone into foreclosure.” Part of the problem is the squatting is done “professionally,” meaning that the individuals trespassing have “a list of legal loopholes to help them stay in a home for months, even after someone discovers their illicit living arrangement.”
The Southwest California Legislative Council, a lobby representing over 2,500 businesses, hopes to change all that with the bill in California aimed at making squatting a crime where the individual is liable for arrest and can be fined up to $1,000. And while the bill has been revised from marking squatting as a felony to a misdemeanor, Las Vegas real estate lawyers like Van watchful over the legislation say it’s a start. It at least allows homeowners and landlords legal recourse in the event of squatters moving in on their property.
Because “squatting has gotten so sophisticated,” and that instructions on how it can be done may be found on the internet—including templates for fake leases and step-by-step tips on how to pirate utilities, open a lock, and “force frustrated homeowners or real estate agents to offer cash to induce squatters to move out” on sites such as Facebook, it’s been easy for squatters to get police “to view the situation as a civil matter,” which leaves little protection for homeowners, attorneys like Van say.
Nevadans dealing with the problem will likely wait and see how California fares with the new statute before enacting similar legislation.