Nevada officials: Renters have path to avoid quick evictions
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Money is available for tenants who could face eviction as early as this weekend as pandemic protections expire, and Nevada’s governor and advocates called Thursday for affected renters to quickly contact programs set up to help.
“We will see landlords evicting tenants for non-payment of rent,” and courts may be flooded, said Bailey Bortolin, director of the Nevada Coalition of Legal Service Providers.
The Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada encourages property owners to work with renters through a coronavirus relief housing assistance program, commonly known as CHAP.
If a tenant applies to the program, a court will delay an eviction to allow time try to reach a mediated agreement, Bortolin said.
“Evictions in Nevada follow a backward process,” she said. Once a tenant is served with an eviction notice, they must respond to initiate a court case by filing an answer, and then the landlord files a complaint.
Most tenants don’t know they have to act in order to have an opportunity to speak with a judge and avoid an automatic lock-out, Bortolin said.
“I want to be clear, if you are a renter you must apply for this assistance,” Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak said Wednesday as he provided a summary of available options. “Filling out and submitting an application is the best thing you can do right now if you fear you may be evicted for nonpayment of rent.”
Cities, counties and states across the U.S. expect a wave of pandemic-related evictions when landlords are again allowed turn out tenants who are behind or haven’t paid rent.
The governor let a state emergency eviction ban expire in May, and a nationwide eviction moratorium first put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last September is set to expire Saturday.
The Guinn Center, a nonprofit bipartisan research organization, said nearly 89,000 Las Vegas-area households had received rental assistance since the program launched, and the U.S. Census reported in June that more than 50,000 renters in Nevada were likely to be evicted by August.
Sisolak and Bortolin pointed to a law the Legislature crafted to prevent landlords from ousting tenants who are actively seeking rental assistance.
“AB 486 ensures both landlords and tenants will receive the benefit of $360 million in federally funded rental assistance to keep people in their homes and prevent unnecessary evictions,” the governor said, referring to the law by its bill number.
“We have plenty of rental assistance money available,” he said, “and there are dedicated people through all levels of government working to process those payments as quickly as possible.”
The law allows landlords to apply for rental assistance, an option that was briefly available to them late last year. However, the tenant has to still be living in the property.
Legal Aid Center attorney Aaron MacDonald told the Las Vegas Review-Journal this week that a renter who receives an eviction notice and doesn’t file a response could be locked out.
“It doesn’t matter how long CHAP takes,” MacDonald told the Review-Journal. “The case should be stayed until CHAPS approves or denies the application.”
Shannon Chambers, board president of the state-created nonprofit Home Means Nevada Inc., said applications for rental assistance can start at the organization website, offering no-cost mediation between landlord and tenant through The Renter Connect program.
Tenants can then apply for CHAP housing assistance in their county. Eligible applicants must meet income requirements and show they’ve been affected by COVID-19 through job loss or reduction in work hours.
Kevin Schiller, assistant Clark County manager, told the Review-Journal that since June 2020 the program has paid about $165 million in utility and rental assistance to 90,000 households.
Schiller said 800 to 1,000 applications a week were being processed and the program had about 8,000 applications pending.