Keeping property free of refuse important for health, financial reasons |

Keeping property free of refuse important for health, financial reasons

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Rick Zierenberg, code enforcement officer for Lyon County, at his Yerington office on Sept. 11.

Lyon County, like most jurisdictions, has in its code an ordinance prohibiting people from accumulating trash or junk on their property.

The ordinance defines a nuisance property as one with unsafe and unsanitary structures, accumulation, maintenance and existence of refuse declared to be a public nuisance.

Rick Zierenberg, who has been Lyon County’s Code Enforcement Officer for nearly five years, is in charge of taking action if a property is in violation of the law.

Some people might say “it’s my land, I’ll do what I want.” How does a nuisance property impact others?

A large percentage of the people I come into contact with state those exact words, “It’s my property, and I can do anything I want with it.”

A nuisance property impacts other properties on several levels:

Visually, nuisance properties can be offensive to others just due to the way they look, i.e. vehicles, trash and refuse spread out on the property

Financially, nuisance properties can have an adverse effect on the sale price of neighboring properties that are on the market.

Nuisance properties with garbage and household trash issues can have an adverse effect on the community by the offensive odor that they create.

Trash and household garbage on nuisance properties attract mice, rats, flies and a host of other vermin. Household trash and garbage can breed sickness and disease.

What steps do you take in trying to rectify a nuisance property?

After receiving a formal complaint (a written complaint on a Code Enforcement complaint form), I do a site inspection to verify whether or not the alleged violation exists. If it does, I contact the resident of the property and advise them of the violation and set up a timeframe for them to bring the property into compliance. The timeframe can vary widely depending on the nature and scope of the violation.

If I cannot contact the resident, or the resident makes no attempt to bring the property into compliance, I mail them and the owner of the property, if they are different, a certified notification letter which describes the nature of the violation and gives a timeframe to bring the property into compliance.

What legal actions do you take?

Legally, I have three courses of action at my disposal; request a criminal complaint be filed through the district attorney’s office, or issue a citation. If a property owner refuses to clean up their property and remedy the violation, the county has the option of declaring the property a nuisance, cleaning up the property through various means, and placing a lien on the property in the amount of the clean-up costs

What happens if the person living on the property is a tenant, not the landowner?

If the resident on the property is a tenant and not the true owner, all first efforts to bring the property into compliance are attempted through the tenant. If the violation is found to pre-exist the current tenant then the owner of the property is contacted and any legal action, if necessary, would be brought against the owner only. If the condition of the property is a result of the current tenants, then both tenant and owner are deemed responsible.

What if the person is elderly, alone or mentally disabled?

I try to give them as much time as necessary to bring the property into compliance. I had one elderly couple that took a little over three years to clean up their property.

If it is impossible for the residents, due to physical or mental disabilities, I will try to find them physical labor help through a local church or neighbors. If the problem is financial, I try to put them in contact with human resources in Silver Springs.

When all else fails I contact Aged Protective Services in Carson City. So far I have been lucky and have managed to find help for those who need it.

Why is enforcement of the nuisance laws important?

Enforcement of nuisance laws contributes the ability to attract growth, both residential and commercial, for future financial stability. It’s also important for residents to know that they have the means available to resolve nuisance issues should they arise in their neighborhood, and to know that laws and the process to enforce those laws are in place to protect their investment in their properties.

To file a complaint

• Code Enforcement Complaint Forms are at each station and substation of the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office.

• If you need additional assistance with the Complaint Form or have further questions, please contact Code Enforcement Officer Richard Zierenberg at (775) 463-6511 or e-mail: