CARSON CITY (AP) — Nevada lawmakers passed a bill on Monday to provide renters additional means to fight evictions outside traditional court hearings once the state’s eviction moratorium is lifted on Sept. 1.
The bill passed through the state Senate on Sunday and Assembly on Monday, with bipartisan support in both chambers from lawmakers concerned about the lasting ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic and associated economic downturn.
Assemblywoman Selena Torres, D-Las Vegas, said moving eviction proceedings from courts to mediation would prevent problems from compounding for many families faced with the decision to pay rent or put food on the table.
“So many families have lost their economic security due to no fault of their own. For our families living paycheck-to-paycheck, how could you ever predict or prepare for something like a global pandemic?” she asked.
If Gov. Steve Sisolak signs it into law as expected, the bill will allow courts to delay evictions for up to 30 days, during which tenants and landlords can pursue “alternative dispute resolution,” such as third-party mediation.
In 2019, Nevada courts processed more than 45,000 eviction cases, almost 40,000 of which were in the Las Vegas-area Clark County.
Nevada Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty said projections suggested the numbers in 2020 could be much higher and overwhelm the court system’s capacity.
“If these numbers being projected as evictions starting after Sept. 1 are even half-correct, we would double and if correct we would triple the annual number of evictions and they would all be subject to filing in the month of September,” he said.
A report written by the Guinn Center for Policy Priorities projected from 118,00 to 142,000 households could face evictions in September. Because Nevada law doesn’t require courts set eviction hearings within any time frame, Hardesty said overburdened courts could delay resolution for tenants and landlords alike.
Nevada law already allows for tenant-landlord mediation. The bill allows courts to grant tenants facing eviction 30-day stays to facilitate it.
The bill garnered some opposition from landlord advocates, who argued it would deny home and apartment complex owners — including many who rely on rent for income — the due process necessary to ensure lease contracts are upheld. It received broad support from tenant advocates despite falling short of extending Nevada’s eviction moratorium beyond Sept. 1, which they’ve lobbied for extensively.
Tenant advocates said mediation could prevent putting people on the street and at greater risk of COVID-19. They warned that the repercussions of being evicted could outlast the pandemic by leaving a mark on residents’ records that jeopardizes their ability to find housing in the future.
“The ramifications of an eviction when we’re not in a pandemic are so consequential for a family, so it’s only heightened by the fact that we’re experiencing a public health and economic crisis,” said Nevada Coalition of Legal Service Providers Policy Director Bailey Bortolin.
Sam Metz is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues.