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COMMENTARY: Housing bill would harm the Nevada market

It’s rare for Nevada lawmakers to propose a bill that could do considerable harm to homeowners and tenants alike. But Senate Bill 256 is one such proposal.

Introduced by state Sen. Yvanna Cancela, D-Las Vegas, SB256 was the subject of a March 22 hearing by the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. As leaders from Nevada Realtors and others told lawmakers, this bill would egregiously damage Nevada’s hard-working families who rent from Nevada’s homeowners.

The bill makes it unnecessarily difficult and time-consuming to evict tenants who are habitually late in their rent payments. Our local property owners will be forced to increase security deposits and tighten credit criteria, placing an extreme financial burden on our working families.

If this bill becomes law, many retirees and middle-class families who rent out their homes will find it more challenging to offer their homes for rent, turning an already tight market into a nightmare for those looking to rent a home for their family. Worse yet, passage of SB256 would force well-meaning landlords to become less willing to work with tenants — making life more difficult for those the bill’s sponsor says she’s trying to protect.

Among other things, SB256 would:

■ Prohibit housing discrimination based on a person’s income being derived from government benefits — raising them to a protected class alongside our nation’s veterans.

■ Prohibit a person from refusing to rent a dwelling in a low-income housing project to an applicant because the applicant has a previous history of an inability to pay rent.

■ Require the return of a security deposit within 14 days (instead of the current 30 days), or within five days of the final inspection, whichever is earlier.

■ Allow tenants seeking damages in those circumstances to raise a legal defense to an eviction without depositing the withheld rent in an escrow account.

■ Remove late fees from the definition of rent and prohibit landlords from refusing to accept rent if the refusal is based on the fact that their tenants have not paid.

While some of these provisions may sound fine on paper, several of them would create undue burdens on landlords when they need to exercise their legal right to remove tenants for not paying their rent, for damaging their property and for other legitimate reasons.

The result is Nevada homeowners, who through hard work are in a position to rent their homes, would be forced to sell to multibillion-dollar, out-of-state investors who will continue to abuse Nevada’s hard-working families who rent those same homes.

Don’t let this bill damage Nevada homeowners and working families. Call or contact your lawmaker at www.leg.state.nv.us/App/Opinions/80th2019/ to let them know that this misguided bill is poor public policy.

Keith Lynam is the 2019 president of the statewide Nevada Realtors, a professional trade association with more than 17,000 members.

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