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Renters face tough questions after receiving eviction notices

Updated October 26, 2020 - 12:58 pm

Nevadans facing an eviction are able to stay in their homes thanks to a federal residential eviction moratorium — provided they take action.

The federal order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention runs through Dec. 31. It allows eligible tenants to opt in by signing a CDC declaration form, which they must pass along to their landlord or property manager. Once the form is delivered, renters are protected from being evicted for nonpayment of rent, though tenants will still owe any accrued payments and late fees.

But not everybody knows about the federal order, and the uncertainty of what lies ahead is taking a toll on jobless Nevadans.

Rhonda Manuel

If her financial situation worsens Rhonda Manuel said she will live in her car.

“I’m 52 years old and I’ve never been through anything like this,” she said. “I was always able to pay my rent.”

The former call center worker was laid off from her job in March but was able to pay her rent with her regular unemployment benefits coupled with the additional $600 weekly payment, provided through the $2 trillion federal stimulus bill known as the CARES Act.

But after the $600 federal provision ended in July, Manuel could no longer cover her rent payment on top of other living expenses.

She is about six weeks behind on rent and received an eviction notice Oct. 19 from her landlord at Shelter Island Apartments, near UNLV. She gave her landlord the CDC declaration form the next day, after learning about the order through the news.

“I’m looking at $143 a week from unemployment, and my rent is $219 a week, (but) then I have my car insurance,” she said. “I need that car to try and get a job.”

Manuel said she tries to pay what she can, giving her landlord up to $40 a week toward rent, with her remaining income going toward food for her and her 15-year-old grandson.

Advanced Management Group, which manages Shelter Island Apartments, confirmed receiving Manuel’s declaration form.

“People now have to figure out if they’re going to eat or keep a roof over their head or live in their car,” she said. “This is really stressful.”

Jean Woodman

Jean Woodman, Manuel’s neighbor, also received an eviction notice Oct. 19.

She learned about the CDC order the same day through Manuel, who brought Woodman to a town hall hosted by Clark County Commissioner Lawrence Weekly on pandemic-related housing issues that evening.

“It’s been a heck of an experience,” said Woodman, who is two months behind on rent.

She was grateful for Manuel’s help, adding that she received a $100 gift card during the town hall.

“I went and got a bus pass so I can go around looking for work, which I’ve been doing through the whole pandemic,” she said.

Advanced Management said it also received Woodman’s CDC form.

Woodman said she has been waiting since June to receive unemployment benefits. She was laid off that month from her housekeeping position at the Silver Sevens hotel-casino.

She was able to keep up with her rent for a brief time after receiving donations from a local Jewish charity and Clark County Social Service programs, but the one-off payments have not been enough for the 59-year-old.

“I’ve been bumming money off the street for toilet paper,” Woodman said. “I’ve had a hard time. I’ve never in my life dreamed I would be like this.”

Jimmy Marks

Jimmy Marks, 71, is already dealing with terminal cancer.

Now he’s navigating the eviction process.

Marks and his wife were splitting a monthly rent payment of $1,250 with a roommate. When the roommate lost his job in March, he could no longer afford his portion of the rent and moved out.

Marks said he received an eviction notice from the manager at his apartment complex, Tompkins Cove, east of the 215 Beltway, after Gov. Steve Sisolak’s nonpayment-of-rent eviction moratorium lifted Oct. 15.

He visited the Civil Law Self-Help Center at the Regional Justice Center last week and learned about the CDC eviction moratorium.

Marks said he responded to the eviction notice at the courthouse and gave a copy of the CDC form to the property manager.

But Marks is worried the manager will still evict the couple, as his rental agreement ended in March and the landlord has not renewed his lease agreement.

A representative for Tompkins Cove declined to comment.

Marks said he receives about $700 a month from Social Security and the couple can’t afford the moving costs and fees associated with signing a new rental agreement.

He has tried to pay $100 to $200 a month toward rent, but he’s unable to contribute anything more.

“I don’t know what to do,” Marks said.

In the meantime, he’s been instructed to call the courthouse every morning to see if he has a court hearing scheduled.

Pamela Pierce

Pamela Pierce waited six months to receive her unemployment benefits, and with no income, except occasional money from friends, her truck was repossessed and she racked up $10,000 in outstanding rent — money she still owes to her landlord.

Pierce was a substitute teacher through staffing agency Kelly Services before being laid off March 19.

The 65-year-old said she began receiving her weekly unemployment benefits three weeks ago as well as a lump sum for benefits owed to her from March through July. She’s waiting to receive back payments for August and September.

Pierce, who lives in an apartment complex east of the Strip called Las Vegas Grand Apartments, was able to pay October’s rent but is facing a larger bill in November. Her rental agreement was not renewed because of the missed payments, so she’s now on a month-to-month lease, which has increased her rent that includes utilities from $1,650 to $1,790.

“I’m saving now to pay for November’s rent,” she said. “I told my landlord I can pay going forward but I can’t pay what I owe.”

Pierce said she discussed a payment plan with her landlord, but the landlord wanted her to pay $500 on top of her monthly rent as opposed to the additional $100 Pierce proposed.

A representative at Las Vegas Grand said it has been trying to work with tenants on payment plans and has given eviction notices to tenants for nonpayment of rent.

“I wouldn’t sign the payment plan paperwork because I told them I can’t pay for something with money I don’t have,” she said.

Pierce received her eviction notice Oct. 16.

Like Woodman and Manuel, she was able to get help during the town hall meeting. She plans to give the CDC declaration form to her landlord as well as file a response to the eviction notice she received.

“I was homeless last year, and I’m not trying to end up like that again,” she said.

Contact Subrina Hudson at shudson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Follow @SubrinaH on Twitter.

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