During an online press conference on Sunday March 29, Governor Steve Sisolak, Attorney General Aaron Ford and state Treasurer Zach Conine announced an emergency directive that imposes a statewide moratorium on residential and commercial evictions for late rent payments.
According to US Census Bureau data, some 55 percent of Reno area residents rent their homes, and most rents are due on the first of the month. With nearly 100,000 unemployment claims filed this month in Nevada alone, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak wants people to stay at home.
“This is not the time to put people out on the streets,” Sisolak said. “This is also not the time to evict small business owners who have been hit by the economic fallout of this pandemic. First off, to do this, we’re prohibiting lockouts, notices to quit or pay, or eviction filings for as long as we’re in a state of emergency.”
The governor acknowledged that landlords have bills too and that this directive does not exonerate renters from payment.
“You must still adhere to the terms of your contract with your landlord, property manager or lender and are encouraged to work with them to determine an appropriate resolution regarding any outstanding payments.”
The Nevada State Apartment Association (NVSAA) represents more than 140,000 rental units across the state. NSAA members represent all aspects of the multifamily housing industry from apartment owners and management executives to developers, builders, investors and property managers. Susy Vasquez is the director of the NVSAA and in an email response to questions said landlords are worried.
“We reached out to our members shortly after the State of Emergency was announced by our Governor and most were already reaching out to their residents and asking they contact the office if they were impacted. We don’t quite know the extent of the impact. Many are waiting to see what the federal and state government will offer and then will be able to move forward. We continue to maintain open lines of communication with our residents and will have a better idea next week.”
According to Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, there have been numerous cases of landlords bullying tenants with threats of late fees or evictions should they be delinquent on their upcoming rent. Susy Vasquez said her association members have been directed to tread lightly.
“The NVSAA is an affiliate of the National Apartment Association, which has asked members to offer waivers on late fees and payment arrangements for impacted residents.”
During today’s online press conference, Nevada state Treasurer Zach Conine said his office has been communicating with the Nevada Bankers Association, the Credit Union League and the Mortgage Lenders Association. Conine said the members of these groups have made 3 major commitments to borrowers to include no late fees, no evictions, and mortgage forbearance.
“Most lenders are now offering homeowners facing financial hardships due to COVID-19, a 90 day grace period, allowing Nevadans to delay their mortgage payments until they get back on their feet. That means that if you have fallen ill, been laid off, or had your hours reduced, you can stay in your home if you reach out to your lender for assistance,” Conine said.
Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford sanitized the microphone before and after speaking during today’s press conference and said his office has been inundated with calls from renters desperate for protection from bullying and evictions. Ford said the eviction moratorium takes into account all sides of the complex equation.
“I understand that this will be a strain on property owners and businesses who must also pay bills. That’s why this temporary cessation and evictions and foreclosures (directive) is a balance between the need to keep Nevada families in their homes and businesses in their building and our recognition of the rights and needs of property owners.”
When asked if the NVSAA opposes a moratorium on evictions, Susy Vasquez said her members take a long view and that keeping people in stable housing is a priority.
“We are not opposed to a temporary cessation on evictions,” Vasquez wrote. “We understand that until further information is made available, it’s difficult to assess the overall impact. We are in the business of maintaining occupied communities, and I think we all have a common goal to work together to get through this crisis. Our primary goal continues to be to provide a home to our residents.”
The attorney general reiterated that this directive does not mean tenants do not have to pay rent. Ford also noted that landlord bullying or intimidation would be met with action from his office.
“I know what it’s like to grow up in fear that your lights won’t turn on. Or even worse that your family might end up homeless. No child should have to go through that life of fear. And no adult should be saddled with these issues during an already stressful pandemic. I hope this directive and financial assistance will provide comfort to those who are already struggling and afraid.”
Hear an audio report of this story produced in conjunction with KUNR Reno Public Radio.
Brian Bahouth has been a public media journalist since 1994 and has lived in Reno since 2000. He first came to northern Nevada to be news director at KUNR, Reno Public Radio and has subsequently filed scores of reports for National Public Radio, Nevada Public Radio, Capital Public Radio and KVMR in Nevada City, California. He is co-founder of KNVC community radio in Carson City. Support his work.