Valley homeowners fight to get strangers out of their house
A local homeowner has a had time getting rid of squattersPhoto: Video by ktnv.com
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Imagine the sinking feeling knowing as you can't get into your house. Someone changed the locks and moved in. One homeowner wants to know why the process to get them out takes so long.
"Your rights as an owner are pretty much diminished to nothing," said Sandra Velez.
While strangers slept in her vacation home near the M Resort, Sandra slept in a hotel room, locked out of her own home.
"It's just outrageous," said David.
Sandra and her brother David bought a house a couple of years ago to escape the daily grind of life in California. She was in the process of a short sale when Sandra stopped by the house on March 23. When she pulled up, all the lights were on.
"I was initially thinking they were just partying in there," said Sandra.
Instead, Sandra found a family living inside.
"As I approached the front door I hear barking and footsteps going up and down," said Sandra.
Sandra doesn't have a dog and the SUV she took a picture of in the garage isn't hers. She called Las Vegas police.
"The police said there's nothing we can do because they have this lease that was issued to them, not from us and nobody we know," said David.
The officer left telling Sandra she had to go through the courts. She worked with a private company to get a five day notice filed that was served on March 29. Three days later as our producer interviewed her brother, the front door suddenly opened.
"What do you have to say to the homeowner that you're in his house right now," asked the producer.
"I apologize we're not messing your house up, we're not messing your house up we're taking care of it. We're trying to get out of here," said the man who was inside the house.
The man wouldn't give us his name saying he met someone on the street who asked if he wanted to rent a house. He says he paid more than $2,000 to move in. We asked him about an extension cord running to the house next door.
"I asked somebody," said the man.
That somebody wasn't the homeowner because Action News tracked him down. He says he never gave permission.
"I got three kids... just ran electricity to cook the grill," said the man.
In the process, he drove up the neighbor's bill by stealing electricity.
Just as Sandra and David thought they might get their house back the tenants living inside, identified on court records as Stacey and Ashley Pondt fought the eviction and a trial date was set for April 22.
But the Pondt's never showed up for that hearing and the judge ruled in Sandra's favor. So she immediately went to the constable's office and on April 24, an officer changed the locks and gave the keys to the Velez' realtor.
An orange sticker shows the constable was here to kick somebody out but clearly sometime after someone else was here to kick in the front door.
Metro Police were called but because the homeowners live in California, they'll have to wait to file a police report in person. Action News, along with the realtor, sent them pictures of holes in the wall and wood ripped off doors in the house. Because of the lack of water in the house, there was a smell from the bathrooms that's almost unbearable.
"I'm not sure there's any recourse for us to even take after this," said David.
Lou Toomin with the constable's office says there's not an easy answer to that.
"We think it's a 50/50 split between actual people who are being scammed and those people who are actually squatters that have broken in and live there themselves," said Lou Toomin from the Constable's Office.
But what frustrated the Velez family the most was why the police didn't kick the people out of the house that first night, back on March 23.
"If that's the case and he says I haven't given permission to anybody to live in my house, I don't know why Metro can't trespass them at the point," said Lou.
We asked Metro that and they say it's basically out of an officer's hands when they respond to a call about squatters and people show paperwork that they have a lease. Lou thinks legislation could change that.
"Distinguish between the civil and the criminal options that Metro has with regards to squatters in somebody's home that shouldn't be there. Maybe give them some protection legally so they don't think they're going to be libeled somehow," said Lou.
The Velez's know someone else will go through the same fight they did to get their home back.
"If there's no consequences why would they stop doing it," said David.
The Velez's don't know how this will impact the short sale of the home. They're trying to figure out who pays for the damage.
Have you had a similar situation in your neighborhood? If so, email firstname.lastname@example.org.