Renters’ Advocates Speak Out for Nevada Tenants’ Rights Bill

by Suzanne Potter, Nevada News Service

Legal-aid groups say complaints by Nevada renters are on the rise, but evictions are down, in the wake of a new landlord-tenant law that took effect July 1. (Wikimedia Commons)

CARSON CITY, Nev. – Legal-aid groups are voicing support for a bill to prevent trouble between Nevada landlords and tenants.

Hear an audio report from Suzanne Potter.

Senate Bill 256 already has passed the Senate and now awaits a hearing in the state Assembly’s Commerce Committee. The bill would make a number of changes, including defining “rent” as only the regular amount due. This would prevent landlords from including late fees in a notice of unpaid rent, which can be confusing to renters.

At the Civil Law Self-Help Center, directing attorney Lauren Pena said that would make the process more transparent.

“This does not take away a landlord’s right to get late fees; it doesn’t take away a landlord’s right to evict somebody for nonpayment of late fees,” she said, “but what it does is, it just clarifies the process for everybody. Across the board, there’s been confusion on this.”

Pena said the Civil Law Self-Help Center in Las Vegas, run by the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, sees about 25,000 landlord-tenant complaints a year. Realtors’ groups have slammed the bill, however, claiming it would create an undue burden on landlords and will prompt them to increase security deposits and tighten credit criteria, affecting lower-income renters. Pena countered that most ethical landlords would be unaffected by this bill.

The bill also would make it easier for tenants to prove that a landlord knew about a deficiency but did not make repairs – and it sets up a mechanism for renters to get essentials, such as medicine and baby formula, if they’re locked out because of an eviction. Another provision would give tenants the right to an emergency hearing if a landlord insists on making repairs late at night, something Pena said is particularly a problem for single women.

“When they are feeling the abuse, when they are feeling fearful, when they are not sure if what’s happening is appropriate or not,” she said, “it gives them an immediate procedure to get before a judge and sort that issue out.”

SB 256 also would require landlords to do a walk-through upon request, to identify what tenants can do to get more of their security deposit back. It would mandate that security deposits be returned within 21 days, down from the current requirement of 30 days. The text of the bill is online at leg.state.nv.us.