First, it's crucial to understand the difference between squatting and trespassing. Although they are often confused, a difference affects how the court system treats them. A squatter is someone who has taken up residence on a property they do not own and may or may not be aware they are breaking the law. A trespasser is someone who accesses a property knowing they are not welcome. Although the difference is subtle, squatting is regarded as a civil matter, while trespassing is criminal.
Even though they have no legal claim to a property, squatters can eventually assume ownership through a process called adverse possession. In Nevada, a squatter may claim adverse possession after only five years as long as they've been paying property taxes the entire time. So, after five years of occupation and consecutive payments to the local government, the squatter can legally take the property without purchasing from the original owners. However, they must also satisfy the following conditions:
- Continuous: They must occupy the property for five years and cannot vacate and then return just to claim adverse possession.
- Actual: They must show some control over the property by performing maintenance or making improvements.
- Open and Notorious: It must be clear to anyone who visits that someone is living on the property, and the squatter can't be hidden or concealed.
- Exclusive: The squatter must be living alone and can't occupy the area with a larger group.
- Hostile: The squatter's residence is in direct conflict with the original owner's rights.
If the squatter meets all those conditions and they've been paying taxes on the property for the duration of their occupation (or at least the past five years), they have a claim to adverse possession.
A new Unlawful Occupancy Law allows police to arrest squatters with a gross misdemeanor. So, if you notice an unwanted person on your property, all you have to do is contact the authorities. In most cases, they can arrest and evict the squatter on the premises, allowing you to file a Notice of Retaking possession.
You can also file a Changing of Locks and Submission of Posted Notice, which allows you to take steps to prevent the squatter from returning. So, if they try to come back, they can be arrested again and face up to a year of jail time. If police cannot arrest the squatter on the property, you can still serve them with a 4-day notice to surrender, which gives them four days to leave or fight the eviction in court. So, it only takes about 48 hours to a week to evict a squatter in Nevada.
Although discovering a squatter on your property can be stressful, Nevada has laws in place that make it relatively easy to evict them without facing any legal consequences. Just make sure you contact the proper authorities and file the necessary paperwork to have them removed so you don't complicate the process.
Do Squatters Have Rights in Las Vegas?
Yes, squatters do have rights in Las Vegas. However, there are strict penalties against vagrancy and homelessness. In 2019, Vegas passed an ordinance to ban homeless people from sleeping or setting up camps on public streets. Squatting is also considered a gross misdemeanor, so they can be arrested if they take up residence on private property as well.
How to Report Squatters in Las Vegas
In Las Vegas you can report squatters to the police the moment you notice them. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has set up a dedicated hotline for reporting squatters, which you can reach by calling 311 or 702-828-3111.