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Gov. Lombardo draws fire for vetoing renter-related bills

The Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada warns that thousands of Nevadans will become homeless after Gov. Joe Lombardo vetoed “critical common sense” bills related to tenants rights and eviction reform.

On Friday, Lombardo vetoed Senate Bill 335, which would have halted evictions for up to 60 days for renters who have a pending application for rental assistance. It was a bill that included similar protections as a 2021 Nevada law that lapsed June 5.

“As a result, thousands of Nevadans, who could have maintained housing had SB 335 been signed into law, will be evicted and make up the growing ranks of the newly homeless,” wrote the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, a nonprofit law firm that provides assistance to those who cannot afford an attorney, in a statement Tuesday.

Lombardo was not available for an interview Tuesday, and his office referred the Las Vegas Review-Journal to his veto messages, in which he wrote that the bill would create “onerous burdens in Nevada’s residential renting market by requiring even more hurdles for a landlord to evict a non-compliant tenant.”

“Not only would this make the eviction process more time consuming, it would also make it more costly — potentially worsening availability and accessibility to residential properties for those looking to rent,” Lombardo wrote.

Other vetoes

He also vetoed Assembly Bill 340, which would have revised the summary eviction process and required a landlord to initiate an eviction process with the court, as well as Senate Bill 78, a sweeping rental reform bill that aimed to protect renters.

Senate Bill 78 would have required a landlord who collects an application fee from a prospective tenant to refund the fee if the landlord rents to someone else or doesn’t use the fee for what it was collected for. It also prohibited landlords from charging families an application fee for each child.

It also would have required the landlord to prove that a tenant caused damage to an apartment and must show how much that damage costs before taking a part of a renter’s security deposit. The bill also would have required rental agreements to include a grace period for late rent payments, prohibiting a landlord from charging a late fee until after that grace period.

Lombardo said Assembly Bill 340 would make Nevada an “inhospitable environment” for landlords and would impose additional delays and costs on landlords who seek to remove people who are unlawfully on their property after their lease is terminated.

On Senate Bill 78, he said that while it is “partially well-intended” by aiming to increase transparencies, it would make “wide-ranging changes” to accounting practices and traditional fee collection. It also would require landlords to comply with a notice schedule and risk getting penalties.

“Since this bill would only serve to exacerbate an already challenging period for Nevadan renting families, I cannot support it,” Lombardo wrote in the message.

Lombardo did sign legislation that aims to combat homelessness. He signed Assembly Bill 528, which creates a program that matches funds of up to $100 million to projects that provide services to people experiencing homelessness or are at risk of becoming homeless, as well as Assembly Bill 396, which provides funds to rental assistance programs in Clark County and the cities of Reno and Sparks.

That legislation allocates $6 million each for two fiscal years in Clark County for people who are elderly, have disabilities, or families facing an “unanticipated emergency,” the law states. It gives Reno and Sparks each $1.5 million for those two years.

‘Fundamental human right’

The Legal Aid Center argued that rental assistance must be delivered “when it can make a difference.”

“Without SB 335 the fast pace and opaque process of summary evictions will make it nearly impossible for rental assistance to keep the vulnerable housed,” the Legal Aid Center said.

Lombardo also took fire from housing justice advocates and several other local organizations for vetoing the rent-related bills. The Nevada Housing Justice Alliance, a coalition of housing advocates, claims Lombardo is siding with the landlords “while working families in Nevada continue to suffer” with rent increases over 40 to 50 percent.

“We are deeply concerned about the governor’s veto of these important housing bills,” said American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada Policy Manager Lilith Baran in a statement. “Time after time we have watched housing justice policies fizzle and stall. … Access to affordable housing is a fundamental human right. Vetoing these bills perpetuates systemic injustices and undermines civil rights.”

Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald said in an interview that the party had heard concerns from “mom and pop” landlords during the COVID-19 pandemic who had just four units and were worried about losing their properties. He thinks Lombardo worked well with the Democrats to combat the homeless problem and pass legislation to provide funding.

Contact Jessica Hill at jehill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @jess_hillyeah on Twitter.

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