6 Steps to Removing Your Squatters
DISCLAIMER: This blog post is not intended to form an attorney-client relationship, and it should be used for informational purposes only, and it should not be construed, and is not intended to serve, as legal advice. The facts and circumstances of your life may affect how and whether to make particular decisions while seeking legal relief and/or remedies. It is very likely that seeking legal advice from a licensed attorney is your best option.
Step 1 – Have Your Squatters Arrested
Nevada lawmakers have made it a crime to be a squatter, which means that police involvement is appropriate when you suspect someone is squatting on your property. This law only applies to a structural building that is intended to be a residence or place for sleeping. The first step in asserting your rights as the property owner is to have the appropriate police department pay your squatters a visit.
Squatting falls into two categories: Housebreaking and Unlawful Occupancy.
Housebreaking happens when a person uses physical force, or changes or alters the locks, to enter “an uninhabited or vacant dwelling” with the knowledge that they do not have permission from you, the property owner, to be there and that person does so with the intent to be a resident or sublet your property to another person. A first offense is a gross misdemeanor. A second and any additional offense is a felony.
Unlawful occupancy happens when someone begins living in your “uninhabited or vacant dwelling” without your permission and the person knows that he or she does not have your permission to live in the residence. A first offense is a gross misdemeanor. A third and any subsequent offense is a felony.
If you suspect you have squatters who are guilty of housebreaking and/or unlawful occupancy, contact the police and provide them with as much information and evidence as you can. Take pictures and/or video (without invading privacy or going crazy – if you find yourself filming intimate squatter moments, for example, you have gone too far and are probably criminally and/or civilly liable for what you’ve done. NO INVASIONS OF PRIVACY!). Keep a notebook of witness names, dates, times, incidents, etc. The more detailed, the better.
Step 2 – Retake Possession of Your Property and/or Change the Locks
After the authorities have handled your squatters and any minor children who may be residing in your house, and everyone is gone, you are then and only then legally authorized to (1) retake possession and (2) change the locks. Doing both is advisable, but at the very least you should change the locks and totally secure the premises so that your squatters or other, new squatters do not get any bright ideas. At the same time that you retake possession and/or change the locks to house, you must post a written notice on the house that complies with Nevada law.
Step 3 – Post the required written notice on your house on the same day you retake possession of your property and/or change the locks, and leave it there for at least 21 calendar days.
Please feel free to download and use any of the following documents:
- NOTICE OF POSSESSION AND OR CHANGED LOCKS
- NOTICE OF POSSESSION AND OR CHANGED LOCKS (Fillable PDF)
- STATEMENT OF POSSESSION
- STATEMENT OF POSSESSION (Fillable PDF)
You must post a written notice on your house when you retake possession and/or change the locks. The mandatory written notice must meet the legal requirements set forth by Nevada law. It must (1) identify the address of your property; (2) identify the court that has jurisdiction over any matter relating to your property; (3) give the date on which you retook possession of your property and/or changed the locks; and (4) give the following advisories to the squatter(s):
- One or more locks on the dwelling have been changed as the result of an arrest for housebreaking or unlawful occupancy.
- The unlawful or unauthorized occupant has the right to contest the matter by filing a verified complaint for reentry with the court within 21 calendar days after the date you retook possession and/or changed the locks. The squatters must serve the complaint at the address you give to the court when you file the written notice (see below).
- Reentry of the property without a court order is a criminal offense, punishable by up to 4 years in prison.
- Except as otherwise provided in NRS 40.412(2)(d)(4), the owner of the dwelling shall provide safe storage of any personal property which remains on the property. The owner may dispose of any personal property which remains on the property after 21 calendar days from the date indicated in paragraph (c) unless within that time the owner receives an affidavit or notice of hearing pursuant to NRS 40.414. The unlawful or unauthorized occupant may recover his or her personal property by filing an affidavit with the court pursuant to NRS 40.414 within 21 calendar days after the date indicated in paragraph (c). The owner is entitled to payment of the reasonable and actual costs of inventory, moving and storage before releasing the personal property to the occupant.
Step 4 – If you changed the locks on your property, you must file a copy of the notice you posted with your local county justice court the following business day, and the notice must be accompanied by a statement that includes an address for service of any documents upon you or your authorized representative.
If you feel that changing the locks is necessary, you may have to pay a small filing fee (~$2.50) to file a Statement of Possession with your local justice court. Fortunately, this Statement of Possession does not require a filing fee of hundreds of dollars, so the only cost to you as the owner is your time and a few dollars.
Step 5 – Storing your squatters’ property
You must provide safe storage of any personal property that the squatters left on your property. After 21 calendar days from the date you gave in the notice you posted on your property, however, you may dispose of any personal property which remains on the property. If the squatters have filed an affidavit or notice of hearing pursuant to NRS 40.414, however, DO NOT dispose of the personal property that your squatter(s) left behind, just yet.
In any case, you are entitled to payment of the reasonable and actual costs of inventory, moving and storage before releasing the personal property to the occupant. In some cases, you may be able to keep or sell the personal property to recoup your costs, but you should consult an attorney before doing so. See NRS 40.414(7)(b).
Step 6 – Check next month’s blog post, which will cover violent or threatening squatters
Please take note that next month’s blog post will cover what to do when your squatters are violent and/or threatening toward you and the police have not or will not arrest and remove your squatters. There is separate legal action you can take to obtain a court order. You may be entitled to damages to your house and personal property for three times the amount of damage the squatters caused. More on this next time, so please stay tuned!
Matthew B. Beckstead, Esq.*
*Licensed in Nevada
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