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Sisolak releases eviction moratorium details, but questions remain

Las Vegas landlord Rick Korbel understands the reasons behind Nevada’s newest eviction freeze, as waves of lockouts could spark more homelessness.

But, he noted, if everyone is “in it together,” why aren’t property taxes and other bills being waived?

Amit Malik, an out-of-work casino host, says he hasn’t earned a dollar since March, was evicted from his rental house a few days before Thanksgiving, and is now staying in an Airbnb.

Malik knows plenty of people who are unemployed and figures Las Vegas will need even longer eviction protections than the governor just put in place.

“I wish Sisolak did this order sooner,” he said.

Gov. Steve Sisolak signed an order Monday reinstating a residential eviction moratorium in Nevada through March. It covers tenants who are unable to pay rent because of the coronavirus pandemic and are likely to become homeless or forced into a shared-living setup if evicted and bars landlords from removing tenants during the moratorium under previously approved evictions.

The pause comes at a volatile and uncertain time for Southern Nevada, its workforce and its rental market.

The tally of eviction cases is accelerating in Las Vegas, and federal eviction protections are slated to expire soon. The pandemic is still raging, Las Vegas’ tourism-heavy economy has been crushed by the outbreak, and there is no telling if Congress will approve more coronavirus relief funding anytime soon.

“When people are evicted, it is impossible to stay home,” Sisolak said in a news release. “They are out looking for jobs and housing to desperately save their families. They will spread COVID-19 unintentionally because they have no options.”

Susy Vasquez, executive director of the Nevada State Apartment Association, said it would have been fairer to extend the moratorium through January, but running it through March is “irresponsible.”

“We’re frustrated today, for sure,” she said.

According to Vasquez, Nevada’s rental-payment delinquency rate has averaged around 12 percent during the pandemic, with nearly half of that stemming from “bad actors,” or tenants who were able to pay rent but opted against it.


To get protection under Sisolak’s order, renters must provide a declaration to their landlord stating — under penalty of perjury — that they meet the requirements, according to guidance released by the governor’s office.

Tenants are still on the hook for unpaid rent, and landlords are allowed to charge late fees or penalties for missed checks and force people out for reasons other than nonpayment of rent.

Sisolak initially froze evictions in late March, in the early days of the pandemic’s chaos, and let it expire in mid-October. In the meantime, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an order that halts residential evictions for nonpayment of rent for qualifying tenants. It took effect in early September and is set to expire Dec. 31.

Jim Berchtold, directing attorney of the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada’s consumer rights project, said Tuesday that Sisolak’s order is similar to the CDC’s and offers “fairly broad” protections.

Nevertheless, evictions have climbed fast in Las Vegas since the state moratorium was lifted.

A total of 4,263 summary eviction cases were filed in Las Vegas Justice Court last month, up from 3,055 in October, 815 in September and 95 in April after the first moratorium was enacted.

Last month’s case total was up nearly 79 percent from November 2019, court data shows.

Cases are filed by landlords who want to remove tenants and by renters who want to fight an eviction.

Vasquez, of the apartment association, said she is waiting for more guidance on Sisolak’s new order, including whether eviction cases that were underway have to be refiled at some point.

“We’re pretty much on hold until further notice,” she said.

‘Make it to the other side’

Korbel, the landlord, said he and his family own 50 to 55 rental homes in the valley. Plenty of major companies own apartment complexes or big portfolios of rental houses in Southern Nevada, but Korbel noted that Las Vegas also has landlords who just own a house or two and use the revenue for their retirement.

The governor’s directives, he said, are hurting “all the little guys.”

Malik, the casino host, said he applauds Sisolak’s efforts, noting he was able to sequester at home but has bounced around a few times after he was evicted, exposing himself to others.

He stayed at Green Valley Ranch Resort for a few weeks before he moved into a house he found through Airbnb, he said.

Malik said people need support to get through the pandemic, and he wants to help with Las Vegas’ recovery. But, he noted, “people have to actually make it to the other side.”

Contact Eli Segall at esegall@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0342. Follow @eli_segall on Twitter.

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