Private Property
Matt Powers · March 3, 2017

Can an odor be so offensive that it would be punishable by law? Las Vegas code enforcement officials think so. The city council is considering an ordinance to fine residents $1,000 for nuisance smells and code enforcement officials would use a Nasal Ranger device to enforce the proposed ordinance.

The ordinance was inspired by a cat-hoarding house with such a dire stench it could be smelled from across the street. Even after the house was sanitized the odor lingered. The owner of the home was willing to work with code enforcement, but the city wanted the power to deal with less cooperative property owners in the future.

Las Vegas code enforcement said it would use a $2,000 Nasal Ranger device to measure the foulness in future instances of stench complaints. Code enforcement officers would place one end of the device over their nose and then inhale. Vicki Ozuna, the city’s code enforcement supervisor, demonstrated the device to the Las Vegas Review-Journal in the video below.

If the device measures air crossing a threshold of seven parts oxygen to one part odorous air, it would be a violation under the proposed ordinance. Failure to comply would result in a fine up to $1,000. According to the Review-Journal, “Complaints about rancid reeks make up 1 to 2 percent of code enforcement complaints each year. Odor complaints have risen in areas where squatters are prevalent, Ozuna said.”

The Las Vegas City Council will discuss the ordinance on March 15.

The Las Vegas proposed ordinance is part of a national trend of expanded use of code enforcement on property owners. In 2015, the Institute for Justice filed a class action challenging Pagedale, Missouri’s abuse of municipal fines to generate revenue for the city. Last month, IJ filed a challenge to Charlestown, Indiana’s use of code enforcement to oust residents in the Pleasant Ridge neighborhood from their homes to replace them with more upscale houses.