State lawmaker wants to change, not repeal, summary eviction process
Assemblywoman Shondra Summers-Armstrong (D-Las Vegas) is the latest lawmaker to try and overhaul Nevada’s unique rapid summary eviction process, which requires a tenant to make the first filing in an eviction case, not the landlord.
For decades, tenants’ rights activists have pushed to abolish the state’s summary eviction process. The most recent effort to do so came in 2021 when a legislative effort to abolish summary eviction proceedings quietly died in the Assembly without a floor vote, even after it was turned into a study.
Summers-Armstrong’s proposed measure, AB340, doesn’t seek to repeal the law but instead seeks to amend the process to require a landlord to make the first filing in a summary eviction case. The bill comes in response to numerous phone calls Summers-Armstrong said she received from constituents facing eviction during the pandemic, which exacerbated the state’s housing crisis and as rental assistance dollars run out.
“We’re not making any significant changes except to require that, in this case, the landlord file a complaint with the court that is answered by the tenant,” Summers-Armstrong said during a hearing of the bill Wednesday. “This is to bring the process of summary eviction in line with all other civil matters that are heard in our courts.”
Supporters of the bill said the proposed measure would align the summary eviction process with other civil matters in Nevada and address a confusing process that often leaves tenants facing an emotional ‘carnival of horrors.’
Bill co-presenter Jonathan Norman, a lobbyist for several legal aid groups, said the summary eviction process is confusing for tenants because they do not know to make the first eviction filing, expect a court-stamped document before they face eviction, and, as a result, often do not realize they are being evicted until they receive a lockout notice.
“When somebody gets this notice, and they are in a moment of extreme crisis, and they may have their job or a million other things piling up ... a lot of people can go into a trauma response where they have difficulty even engaging with the eviction,” Norman said, adding that the proposed bill would make the process clearer for tenants and landlords alike.
Though supporters emphasized the need for a more straightforward process, not everyone agreed that the proposed measure was the right solution. The Nevada Realtors Association and state Apartment Association testified in opposition to the bill, warning that the proposed law as drafted would place undue burdens on landlords and lead to increased housing costs, among other concerns.
“This body has devoted countless hours to develop policies that can help with housing costs,” said Apartment Association lobbyist John Sande. “In our opinion, it is imprudent to simultaneously pursue policies that will thwart efforts to reduce costs in housing.”
However, Sande and a representative from the Nevada Realtors Association said they were willing to negotiate on the bill language and noted they are working with Summers-Armstrong on the measure.
Summers-Armstrong said equity and fairness within legal proceedings are essential and the state’s summary eviction process is not fair to tenants.
“I represent the sixth district in Las Vegas,” Summers-Armstrong said. “These are regular folks. They don’t have attorneys on speed dial. They don’t have lots of money. They voted for a girl with red glasses and they sent me here to do something about this issue.”
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.
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