Despite stepped-up enforcement efforts and an increase in related arrests, squatters - or people staying illegally in houses they don’t own or hold a lease for - are still a big problem in Nevada.
One state lawmaker has been working on the squatting issue over the course of multiple legislative sessions and he’s brought another bill this year.
Assemblyman Edgar Flores, (D)-Dist. 28 told KNPR's State of Nevada that Assembly Bill 161 would require a lease to be notarized and have contact information for the homeowner. He explained that requiring a notarized lease with more information would give law enforcement another tool in finding squatters.
“This is just allowing law enforcement to do one more thing,” Flores said.
He said that often times what happens is a neighbor or a family member calls the police to report that someone is living in a property that should be empty.
Police then investigate to see who owns the house and then talk to the people living in the home in question. Often, that is when the squatters give police a fake lease. The lease is either something they put together themselves or it came from scammers claiming to be owners.
Flores said a notarized lease will help in two ways. First, if the renters do have a notarized lease, police can follow the paper trail back to the owners and find out what is going on.
Second, if there is no notarized lease, it gives police a "presumption" that something is wrong that they can use in their investigation.
“We’re not creating a scenario where an absence of a notarized lease and information of the landlord on the lease will automatically trigger them being evicted. That won’t happen,” Flores said.
He said a renter should have the name and phone number of his landlord that he can provide to the police unless he is there illegally.
“Most families will be able to do that, squatters won’t," he said.
During the recession, when many homes were left empty because of foreclosures and homeowners abandoning properties, there were several incidents of people renting homes they thought they were legally allowed to rent, but in fact, the landlords turned out to not be owners of the property.
Flores hopes his bill addresses that type of scam as well.
“One of the things I am trying to do with this bill beyond the fact that we’re trying to help law enforcement, it is also just using it as one more educational component,” he said.
He said red flags should go up when a renter has never met the landlord, is asked to send a check only to a P.O. box or found a rental from a classified ad service like Craigslist.
Flores said many of the people caught squatting in the Las Vegas Valley also get charged with another crime like illegal weapons possession or drugs. They also often have an arrest warrant out for them.
He said property values go down and houses are harder to sell in neighborhoods where there are squatters.
“Through every lens we look at this, we have to take action now,” he said.
Edgar Flores, assemblyman, Nevada District 28
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