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Nevada Legislature considers sealing COVID related eviction records

The Nevada Legislature building is located in Carson City, Nevada
Posted at 5:28 AM, Mar 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-10 09:27:34-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — A bill working its way through the Nevada Legislature, AB141, would help renters who've been evicted during the coronavirus pandemic find new housing easier without the burden of a tarnished record.

Assemblyman Howard Watts, D, District 15 sponsored the bill and has been getting flack from landlords and property owners concerned that the bill would hurt their industry that's already been dealt several bad hands during the pandemic-related economic crash.

Watts says he's attempting to avoid a chain reaction of poverty once eviction moratoriums are lifted.

"Nevada is on the cliff of a major eviction crisis," he said. "Evictions can often be the result of poverty, but they can also be a cause of poverty."

AB 141 would do two things if passed into law.

First, it would extend the length of notice landlords have to give monthly or weekly renters to 60 or 90 days based on how long the renter has lived at that location before they're forced to move out.

RELATED: Nevada receives more CARES funding to extend emergency rental assistance

Second, and more controversially, the bill would automatically seal any eviction record during the coronavirus pandemic due to non-payment of rent.

Legal Aid Center lawyer Jim Berchtold said the sealing of these records would be important because many people are being booted from their homes through no fault of their own, and the record of that eviction could make it nearly impossible to find another apartment.

"An eviction can be a huge black mark on a tenant's record that can prevent them from finding new housing," he said.

Susy Vasquez, executive director of the Nevada State Apartment Association which represents landlords and property owners, says the bill could be detrimental to renters and property owners alike. And based on past recessions, it would also be unnecessary.

"What happens is the market corrects," she said.

Vasquez also says following the 9/11 and 2008 housing crisis recessions most landlords in Nevada essentially assumed all applicants had evictions and removed that criteria from their evaluation of a potential renter.

"I can guarantee you that there will be landlords that will look away when it comes to looking for prospective residents," she said. "Just because the pool they are pulling from all have been impacted."

Vasquez says she fears sealing these records automatically instead of pushing renters to follow existing channels to seal records could create a years-long blind spot for property owners on records they use to avoid potentially problematic renters.

"One thing that we haven't really highlighted is the fact that there are damages that are occurring," she said. "As people are moving out, we're finding massive issues that are left behind."

Vasquez says renters haven't been the only people affected by the pandemic, as at one point during the downturn 17% of people in all of the roughly 156,000 units her group represents were unable to pay their rent.

If passed, AB 141 would apply retroactively to all evictions filed from March of 2020 through the end of the governor's emergency declaration.