NRS 205.0817 - "Squatting" laws in Nevada (unlawful occupancy)

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Room where a squatter lives (NRS 205.0817)
Squatting is also called "unlawful occupancy" in Nevada under NRS 205.0817.

1. What is the legal definition of squatting in Nevada under NRS 205.0817?

NRS 205.0817 is the Nevada law that prohibits squatting. Also called unlawful occupancy, squatting is living in another person's empty home ("dwelling") without permission of the owner or his/her representative.

Example: Jeff hires a housekeeper to clean his Las Vegas house while he is abroad for several months. The housekeeper moves into the house after her lease ends. Here, the housekeeper is committing unlawful occupancy because Jeff never gave the housekeeper permission to live there.

Nevada squatting laws have no "breaking and entering" requirement. People who lawfully go on private property become squatters if they move in without permission. NRS 205.0817 states:

"A person who takes up residence in an uninhabited or vacant dwelling and knows or has reason to believe that such residency is without permission of the owner of the dwelling or an authorized representative of the owner is guilty of unlawful occupancy."

Nevada squatting laws presume suspected squatters do not have the owner's permission. This is unless the suspected squatter has a rental agreement. And this agreement must both:

  • Be notarized or signed by the owner or authorized representative; and
  • Include the current address and phone number of the owner or authorized representative

Note that NRS 205.0817 does not pertain to people who squat in commercial buildings or cars, only dwellings. People who live in non-dwellings may face other charges, such as trespass or burglary (discussed below in section 7).1

2. What are the penalties?

Squatting is a gross misdemeanor in Nevada. The punishment is:

  • Up to 364 days in jail, and/or
  • Up to $2,000 in fines

But violating Nevada squatting laws becomes a category D felony if the defendant has three or more prior NRS 205.0817 convictions. The sentence is:

  • 1 - 4 years in Nevada State Prison, and/or
  • Up to $5,000 in fines (at the judge's discretion)2

3. What are common defenses?

The best defense turns on the facts of the case. Three typical defense strategies to Nevada squatting charges are:

  1. The defendant had the owner's permission to live in the dwelling;
  2. The defendant reasonably believed he/she had the owner's permission to live in the dwelling;
  3. The defendant spent time in the dwelling but did not live there; or
  4. The location was not a "dwelling."

Another possible defense to unlawful occupancy charges is that the police committed an illegal search of the dwelling. Then the defendant can ask the court to disregard ("suppress") any evidence they found. If the judge agrees, the D.A. could drop the case for lack of proof.

Potential evidence in NRS 205.0817 cases include:

  • Recorded phone calls, emails, or texts between the property owner and alleged squatter;
  • Eyewitness accounts; and
  • Video surveillance footage

4. How does Las Vegas's homeless ban affect squatters?

It is now a misdemeanor to camp or sleep on downtown Las Vegas streets. The only exception is if there are no available shelter beds. The penalties for camping on the street are:

  • Up to 6 months in jail, and/or
  • Up to $1,000 in fines3

Camping or sleeping on streets is technically not "squatting." This is because streets are not a "dwelling."

However, this controversial homeless ban may have the effect of encouraging more squatting. If homeless people can no longer sleep on the streets, they may feel forced to find a vacant home to take refuge in.

Homeless people in Las Vegas can find available shelter beds here.

5. Can the record be sealed?

Nevada squatting convictions are sealable. But there is a waiting period depending on the charge:

 Unlawful occupancy conviction in Nevada

 Waiting period to get a record seal

 Gross misdemeanor

 2 years after the case ends

 Category D felony

 5 years after the case ends

 Dismissal (no conviction)

 Immediately4

Learn how to get a criminal record seal in Nevada.

6. What are the immigration consequences?

The law is unclear about whether squatting is deportable. Therefore, non-citizens charged with unlawful occupancy should seek an attorney.

An attorney can evaluate whether the case threatens the defendant's resident status. And if so, the attorney may be able to persuade the D.A. to dismiss or reduce the charge to a non-deportable offense.

7. What other charges do squatters face?

Depending on the circumstances of the case, Nevada prosecutors may also bring the following charges against suspected squatters:

7.1. Housebreaking

Housebreaking (NRS 205.0813) is forcibly entering an uninhabited or vacant dwelling. The intruder knows he/she does not have the owner's permission. And the intruder intends for the dwelling to be a residence.

A first-time offense is a gross misdemeanor. Any successive offense is a category D felony.

7.2. Unlawful reentry

Unlawful reentry (NRS 205.082) occurs when:

  1. A property owner has lawfully recovered possession of the property from the defendant; and
  2. The defendant goes back onto the property without permission

Unlawful reentry is a gross misdemeanor.

7.3. Burglary

Burglary (NRS 205.060) is entering a structure or vehicle with the intent to steal, assault, or commit a felony. It is not required that the defendant break in. Burglary is a category B felony.

7.4. Trespass

Trespass (NRS 207.200) is defined as either:

  • Going on another's property with the intent to annoy or commit a crime; or
  • Willfully going on or remaining on another's property after having been warned to stay away

Trespass is a misdemeanor.

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Call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673). Or fill out the form on this page. We offer free consultations 24/7.

In California? Learn about Penal Code 647e PC - Squatting laws in California.


Legal references:

  1. NRS 205.0817.
  2. Same.
  3. Las Vegas Municipal Ordinance 2019-36; "Las Vegas City Council approves homeless ban ordinance," Las Vegas Review-Journal (November 9, 2019).
  4. NRS 179.245; NRS 179.255.

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