Some Las Vegas property management companies are reducing how long tenants have to pay rent and raising fees tied to eviction proceedings following new statewide tenant protections that took effect this month.
The move has garnered criticism from tenant rights advocates and attorneys, who say it would be illegal to impose the change on anyone who has an active lease.
“A lease is a contract between two parties, and the terms must be adhered to unless specifically changed by law,” said Bailey Bortolin, policy director for the Nevada Coalition of Legal Service Providers.
One of Southern Nevada’s largest property management companies, Advanced Management Group, sent letters last week to some 5,600 renter households at dozens of local apartment complexes. The letter states that starting Sept. 1 rent will be considered delinquent on the second day of the month, allowing the company to charge overdue rent fees and start the eviction process.
Currently, the company deems rent late if it is not paid by the third of the month.
Advanced Management Group President Bret Holmes said the change is in response to Senate Bill 151’s effect on Nevada’s rental market. The new law capped late fee amounts at 5 percent of a tenant’s regular rent and extended the time a tenant could pay overdue rent to avoid eviction from five to seven business days.
“Based on the fact that the late fees are going down and the time to stay in an apartment without paying rent has gone out further, we’re having to tighten our procedures so that less of that time is wasted,” Holmes said.
Two other property management companies, Avenue5 Residential and Total Property Management, also advised tenants this month that rent will be considered overdue on the second of each month come September, according to copies of notices obtained by the Review-Journal. Neither company returned a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Tenants who pay their rent with government benefits say the change could be devastating for them. Many receive payments on the third of each month.
Ruby Davis, 63, spends more than half the $1,100 she gets each month from Social Security to rent a one-bedroom apartment at Sunset Terrace, a Las Vegas complex managed by Advanced Management Group.
There are some months where she has to borrow money from her sons to pay her bills, and she’s refinancing her 2014 Nissan Sentra so she can afford to run her air conditioner.
Davis’ lease does not expire until January, and it states she has until the third of each month to pay her rent. Still, Davis said an Advanced Management Group representative told her over the phone last week that under the new rules, she will be charged a late fee every month if she waits to pay rent until after she receives her Social Security check.
“You’re forcing something on me I can’t afford,” Davis said. “I’m only hanging on now by a thread.”
Holmes said Tuesday that Advanced Management Group was not trying to impose a hardship on tenants with the impending changes.
Because of feedback about the notice, he said, the company plans to allow residents at its senior living communities to continue paying rent by the third of each month. Residents, like Davis, who are living on fixed incomes at other properties will be able apply for a reasonable accommodation from the new rental payment deadline.
Holmes said he believes its within state law to impose the changes on tenants with active leases, but he’s willing to revisit the matter.
“If we’re wrong I’m not opposed to going back and changing what we’re doing,” he said. “We’re not trying to break the law. We’re not trying to do anything illegal.”
In addition to changing when rents are overdue, Advanced Management Group and Total Property Management will charge tenants a $500 fee if the companies take them to eviction court, up from about $250 and $300, respectively, according to notices obtained by the Review-Journal.
Avenue5 Residential will charge a tenant a $175 “legal notice preparation fee” if it hires a third-party process server to post an overdue rent notice on the tenant’s door, according to the notice. The company currently charges a $50 fee to tenants who are served an eviction notice.
State Sen. Yvanna Cancela, who helped champion SB151, rebuked the increased charges as “egregious” and “arbitrary.”
“What these landlords show is the potential abuse of power that landlords can hold over tenants,” she said.