weather icon Clear
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

Nevada eviction bill picks up when moratorium ends

Updated May 20, 2021 - 7:46 pm

CARSON CITY — With the end of the state’s moratorium looming, Nevada lawmakers unveiled a bill Thursday aimed at helping renters who are facing eviction when it expires.

Assembly Bill 486 would require courts to temporarily pause evictions for nonpayment if the renter has applied and has pending rental assistance. If the landlord has refused to accept rental assistance on behalf of the tenant, the court would be required to dismiss the eviction process and the renter can sue for wrongful eviction.

The bill comes with less than two weeks left in the legislative session, one in which other major eviction restriction measures faltered. But advocates see this as a key piece to helping renters navigate the process once the moratorium is lifted.

“This is the answer,” said Bailey Bortolin, policy director at Nevada Coalition of Legal Service Providers. “I think everything in this bill is an answer to any question or any hiccup that we’ve seen or that any side of the issue has vocalized over the last year.”

Gov. Steve Sisolak signaled his support for the measure.

“This proposed legislation will help ensure federal rental assistance makes its way to the tenants and landlords who need it and will also provide an opportunity for eligible small landlords to apply for and access rental assistance directly,” Sisolak said in a statement

Nevada’s eviction moratorium expires on May 31, and the federal eviction pause is scheduled to lift on June 30.

The bill, Bortolin said, would allow the eviction moratoriums to be lifted “in a safe and careful way.”

Bortolin stressed that while the bill does offer significant protections, the burden remains on the renters to take action in the eviction process.

“This bill is giving you a tool, but it’s on you to understand and utilize the tool and understand how it works,” Bortolin said.

Under the bill, if a landlord tries to evict a renter who defaulted on their payment, but the landlord did receive rental assistance for the renter, the tenant or the government body that provided the assistance can sue for fraudulent evictions. That could lead to the landlord facing a civil penalty, being forced to pay the plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees.

It also would require landlords to include information about rental assistance programs and protections under the bill to any tenant they are trying to evict.

The legislation also calls for the creation of an electronic form that smaller landlords — those who own a single family residence and make less than $4 million from their rental units — can fill out in order to request rental assistance for a tenant who defaulted on their rent.

Las Vegas attorney Terry Moore of Marquis Aurbach Coffing said the proposal has several good parts, specifically those that help the smaller landlords and prohibit landlords from evicting after receiving the funds.

But Moore said the bill limits discretion both from the courts and the landlords.

“If you don’t accept the rental assistance, then you can get sued for wrongful eviction. That to me is absolutely nuts,” Moore said. “You’re taking away a property owner’s rights to do what they want with the property.”

Clark County’s rental assistance program, CHAP, has distributed about $97 million to families thus far. The program is expected to pay out another $161 million as part of a second round this year, and even more federal relief funds earmarked for rental assistance are expected later this year.

Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, said that the bill came after seeing tenants and landlords trying to navigate a “tedious” process to determine if they’re eligible for rental assistance, and that he hopes it will smooth out that process.

“We are committed to making sure that we help folks stay in their homes a little bit longer and help provide some relief to landlords as well,” Frierson said.

The bill, if passed would go into effect on July 1, 2021, the day after the federal eviction moratorium ends.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Sisolak vetoes 4 bills from 2021 Legislature

Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Friday that he’d vetoed four bills passed during the 2021 Legislature, ranging from housing discrimination, tourism districts and the creation of legislative ethics commissions.

Sisolak signs public-option health care bill

Gov. Steve Sisolak signed several public health-related bills, including state Democrats’ signature legislation establishing Nevada as only the second state in the nation to offer a public health care option.

Sisolak signs bills to help Native Americans in Nevada

Gov. Steve Sisolak on Friday signed a trio of bills that will “profoundly” affect Native Americans in the state, including waiving university fees for some native students and banning racially discriminatory school mascots and so-called “sundown sirens.”