Updated July 26, 2021 - 1:17 pm
A federal protection for tenants who have been unable to pay their rent during the pandemic is expected to end this week, and thousands of Nevadans are at risk of being evicted from their homes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention implemented the federal eviction moratorium last year, and it has kept millions of renters in their residences. While the agency said last month it would not extend the order after it ends Saturday, legal experts and community leaders say Nevadans can still take steps to protect themselves if they expect an eviction notice as soon as Aug. 1.
Rumaldo Chaidez, housing education and counseling coordinator at nonprofit Chicanos Por La Causa Nevada, said applying for the CARES Housing Assistance Program, or CHAP, is key.
“We tell clients to be patient and to communicate with their landlord at all times,” Chaidez said. “Then hopefully they get approved and they’ll get that arrearage cleared out and prevent an eviction.”
There are several steps renters should take if they receive an eviction notice, and the recently passed Assembly Bill 486 also provides added protections such as pausing an eviction proceeding until their rental assistance application is processed.
Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada Consumer Rights Project Attorney Aaron MacDonald said the center has focused on four items for tenants to keep in mind.
■ A tenant should apply for rental assistance through CHAP, which offers an eligible applicant up to 12 months of back rent directly to their landlord.
“If they’ve already applied, go into their account to verify that all of their information is up to date and they need to be sure to monitor their CHAP account and email closely for communication,” MacDonald said.
■ The second point is tenants must respond to an eviction notice by filing a response with the courthouse listed on their eviction notice.
Bailey Bortolin, statewide advocacy, outreach and policy director at Nevada Coalition of Legal Service Providers, said if a tenant decides not to respond then the landlord will be granted the eviction and the tenant can expect a lock out “in a very fast and expedited manner.”
■ If a tenant has a pending CHAP application, it’s important to tell the court because under the newly passed AB486 a judge would be required to stay, or hold, the eviction proceeding until the tenant receives their approval or denial letter from CHAP.
“It doesn’t matter how long CHAP takes,” MacDonald said. “The case should be stayed until CHAPS approves or denies the application.”
Bortolin also notes renters are still able to apply for CHAP and have their eviction case stayed even after receiving an eviction notice.
“Tenants can alert the court that they have a pending rental assistance application, made in good faith, at any time during the proceeding,” Bortolin said. “This is intended to marry the court timeline with rental assistance for the benefit of the tenant and the landlord, because if the eviction is granted the landlord becomes ineligible for the rental assistance money.”
■ MacDonald said his final advice would be for renters to elect mediation whenever they can during the eviction process. The mediation program, which is free, gives tenants and landlords no more than 30 days to try to settle their dispute and avoid the eviction process.
Data from the Eviction Lab shows landlords filed more than 4,000 evictions last month compared with a historical average of about 3,200 filings for the period covering 2016 to 2019.
The spike in eviction filings is the second highest seen since January 2020 and occurred while the CDC eviction moratorium was still in place. The largest spike in eviction filings occurred in November with more than 4,500 filings, or 50 percent above what they are normally.
Chaidez said the nonprofit has seen a surge of renters seeking assistance as the moratorium comes to an end.
“We’ve been stating that for a while — there’s going to be an eviction crisis,” Chaidez said.
He said the organization has already started looking ahead by also focusing on housing needs such as short- to mid-term housing where families can be placed in temporary rental units for up to six months.
“During those six months, our case managers coach them and get them where they need to be to get permanent housing,” he said. “Anything that allows the renter, who is in default with a previous landlord, to become bankable and be able to rent somewhere else.”