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Nevada tenants in limbo as relief bill waits for governor’s signature

Victoria Saunders found out at eviction court Tuesday that she had 10 days to find a new home for her two toddlers — a timeline shortened by the fact that she is due to give birth shortly before that.

“I’m just looking to get out of there as soon as possible,” she said about her apartment after her short hearing in Las Vegas Justice Court.

“It’s ultimately up to me to get them out of there; a week away from delivery,” said the renter, accompanied by her young kids.

A 2021 Nevada law that might’ve delayed evictions for tenants like Saunders — who are awaiting response from rental assistance programs, such as Clark County’s CARES Housing Assistance Program — lapsed June 5.

As of Tuesday, Gov. Joe Lombardo hadn’t signed or vetoed a bill passed this year by the Legislature, which would offer the same protections. Senate Bill 335 — introduced by Sen. James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas — would stay summary evictions for up to 60 days for pending applicants. It was sent to Lombardo on Thursday, and he has 10 days to sign or veto it, not counting Sundays.

A spokeswoman for the governor didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

As of right now, having a pending application for rental assistance no longer works to halt an eviction proceeding.

“Tenants are no longer protected under Assembly Bill 486; therefore, the Court has no authority to stay the tenant’s case while their application for rental assistance is pending, wrote Jessica Gurley, Las Vegas Justice Court administrator and deputy clerk, in a statement. “Currently, there is no method available to readily identify how many evictions proceeded from June 5, 2023 to current that had pending rental assistance applications.”

Hearing Master Amy Ferreira mentioned that fact in four cases in an hour’s span Tuesday morning. The court said there are other recourses available for tenants, such as the Las Vegas Justice Court Eviction Diversion program.

Commenting on behalf of Ohrenschall, Jonathan Norman, advocacy, outreach and policy director with Nevada Coalition of Legal Service Providers, said there are “massive numbers” of pending eviction cases that will only be accelerated since that SB 335 remans in limbo.

And while they had no immediate figures on how many tenants have been affected because the bill has not been signed, the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada has seen multiple clients’ pending application defense denied, attorney Ryan McConnell said.

Saunders’ hearing lasted less than three minutes, in which a representative for the property manager said she owed nearly $8,000 in late rent since March.

‘I fell behind’

She told Ferreira that she didn’t have “much of an income right now,” that she was on disability and that she was about to give birth, noting that she had a pending rental assistance application and that she intended to pay what she owed.

Ferreira delayed the eviction 10 days, the maximum time allowed by state law.

Saunders said in an interview afterward that she started falling behind on payments when her rent increased by nearly 40 percent. So, she made arrangements for partial payments.

“Abruptly one day, (they) decided that they weren’t going to take partial payments anymore,” she said. “So, I fell behind, and just scraped as much as I can to continue saving.”

She said she’s contacted the rental assistance program administrators for months, and that she’s received different answers. She was told to resubmit the paperwork. She did so a day after the old law expired.

Saunders doesn’t know where she and her children will go, noting that she has no immediate family support since her husband works construction out of state.

Another renter — Keandra Jones, her partner and their five children — face a similar situation; they were ordered evicted Tuesday. Jones is due to give birth in August.

The couple spent all their savings renting a house about a year ago. Around the same time, their work as stylists began to dry up.

They have a pending application to extend rental assistance.

“It just sucks, it’s unfortunate,” she said. “I feel like we might be in a better position than most, even though we really don’t have anywhere to go. But I just feel bad for people who have no family, nothing out here, and they’re really going to be out there in the streets.”

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com. Follow @rickytwrites on Twitter.

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