Property owners in Clark County whose houses have fallen into neglect could be fined $1,000 a day on top of cleanup and repair costs under a proposal to be placed before the County Commission on Tuesday.
The clock could run for two years, adding up to a maximum of $730,000, a county official said.
Fines now range from $50 to $200 per day for a maximum of $10,000.
If the rule is adopted, property owners who fail to clean a scummy swimming pool or move junky appliances from their yard after the county issues a 15-day notice could pay $1,000 a day in fines.
Joe Boteilho, who heads county code enforcement, said it’s unlikely any violation would come close to yielding a six-figure penalty. The goal is to prod people to fix their properties more quickly, he said.
“We’re not looking to make money,” Boteilho said. “We just want people to comply.”
But a real estate advocate called the fines excessive and the county’s motives questionable.
“It’s a fairly heavy-handed approach,” said Kipp Cooper of the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors. “It’s essentially a tool for them to take property. Whenever the local government has the ability to take property without just compensation, it creates concerns.”
If an elderly person becomes seriously ill and has no family member who can keep up the house, that person could rack up an astronomical fine, Cooper said.
Also, delinquent homeowners often walk away from houses before they’ve been foreclosed upon, Cooper said. The owners typically lose their jobs and leave the state, making it tough to track them down, he said.
The city of Las Vegas has fined owners as much as $60,000 for neglecting their homes, then slapped liens on the houses, Cooper said. People who bought the houses later inherited the fines.
The proposed code that would impose the heftier fines will be introduced, but there will be no discussion and no vote Tuesday. Commissioners are expected to vote on it later this month.
Boteilho said the higher county fines are aimed mainly at owner-occupied dwellings.
Vacant houses are a lesser problem overall, he said. Last year, about 600 empty houses drew citations for neglect, a small number compared with the thousands of foreclosures in the unincorporated areas of the county.
County staff members are researching how to toughen penalties specifically on rentals and abandoned homes, which would include foreclosures, Boteilho said.
County Commissioner Susan Brager said it’s important to keep neighborhoods free of blight. But she also wants to ensure that people who lose their homes aren’t slammed with unreasonable fines.
“That’s going to be a very fine line,” Brager said.
Contact reporter Scott Wyland at email@example.com or 702-455-4519.