Nevada is taking its first steps to lift a moratorium on evictions that has been in place since the end of March, although landlords will not be able to kick out residential tenants solely for non-payment of rent until September.
The latest directive, announced Thursday, allows evictions to resume earlier for causes such as violations of lease conditions or nuisance issues, and allows eviction proceedings to resume for commercial properties for reasons including non-payment of rent in July. It comes as the current order was set to expire at the end of June.
“It is just as imperative today as it was when I signed the original directive to allow Nevadans to stay home and stay safe as much as possible, while also providing clarity and a timeline in which rental obligations must be met,” Sisolak said in a statement.
"The governor’s directive and phased-in approach will also prohibit residential landlords from charging late fees or penalties related to rent nonpayment until the end of August, and prohibits them from retroactively charging any late fees related to past nonpayment of rent.
The Nevada Association of Realtors, which has represented the interests of landlords, issued a statement in support of the proposal.
"This is a step in the right direction to creating the phased-in approach to ending the moratorium that we have been suggesting," said Chris Bishop, the association's president. "We recognize that the state needs to balance the health and safety of Nevada’s tenants with the needs of property owners and managers."
State officials also said they are developing a rental assistance program supported by $50 million in federal coronavirus relief aid. It earmarks $30 million for residential tenants and $20 million for commercial tenants.
Representatives from the legal aid community celebrated the development, saying it will help stave off a wave of eviction proceedings that could require people to fill courthouses to try to stay in their homes.
“I’m so relieved that people will have a meaningful opportunity to get rental assistance,” said Bailey Bortolin of the Nevada Coalition of Legal Service Providers, a group that had been advocating for eviction relief. “There’s also a huge health and safety component. We need to find a way to avoid overcrowding in our courts.”
Some groups had raised concerns that lifting the moratorium could have devastating consequences for the tens of thousands of Nevadans who have yet to receive unemployment benefits. Claimants whose cases remain unresolved said they feared losing their homes if all the deferred rent suddenly came due next month and money hadn’t started flowing.
Attorney General Aaron Ford has said his office has been in discussions for weeks on what to do when the moratorium goes away. Officials urged Nevada tenants from the start to try to work out a payment plan to avoid an unaffordable balloon payment at the end of the freeze.
Ford’s office also distributed a template lease addendum that tenants and landlords can use to formalize a repayment plan.
Although the moratorium did not cancel rent, it provided relief and clarity to tenants who previously had to reckon with a patchwork of measures proffered by some 40 different courts in the state. That led to confusion about who was eligible for what, if any, relief or postponement of an eviction.
“This decision was made because this is not the time to put people out on the streets, which will only result in an increased risk of infection and more strain on our health care system,” Sisolak said in announcing the moratorium in March.
Even with the moratorium, people could be evicted if they were considered dangerous because they posed a threat to other residents, the public or a landlord’s property.