Bill could prohibit landlords from refusing to rent to tenants using housing vouchers
With rents high, pandemic assistance drying up and officials pointing people to government housing vouchers, lawmakers want to prohibit landlords from discriminating against potential tenants on the basis of income, provided that income is legal.
AB176 — sponsored by Assemblywoman Cecelia González (D-Las Vegas) and co-sponsored by other Democrats — would protect tenants looking to pay rent with government assistance, such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as Section 8, and child support payments.
“We've received complaints over and over about applications being denied because an individual has a Section 8 voucher, or because they have a child support order and that's not viewed as being sustainable enough,” ACLU of Nevada Executive Director Athar Haseebullah said during Monday’s hearing.
Representatives from the Nevada State Apartment Association and Nevada Realtors testified in opposition, saying they worried that the bill would limit landlords’ ability to screen tenants based on stable income and job history — a process they said prevents evictions.
Assemblyman Toby Yurek (R-Henderson) agreed refusing rent on the basis of steady government assistance such as a housing voucher would be purely based on stigma, but raised concerns about landlords accepting other sources of income that may be less reliable.
“I know that there are a lot of — I'll use fathers, but it could be mothers as well — that don't pay their child support obligations,” Yurek said. “It would seem to me that it would be appropriate to take all of that in consideration when calculating the risk for a potential tenant.”
Haseebullah responded that they could look at narrowing the bill, but often sources of income such as child support, subsidies and assistance have legal documentation guaranteeing the tenant will have a certain amount of money by the end of each month — a guarantee many traditional tenants do not have.
“What [this bill] is doing is protecting against the slew and a rising number of landlords that we're seeing that are choosing to specifically state, ‘We do not want to rent to individuals who don't fit a specific category or characteristic of a tenant that we trust,’” Hassebullah said. “Which generally comes in the form of people of color, people who are low income who receive a subsidy and things of that nature.”
Editor’s Note: This story appears in Behind the Bar, The Nevada Independent’s newsletter dedicated to comprehensive coverage of the 2023 legislative session. Sign up for the newsletter here.