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A woman views the hearing docket monitors at the Regional Justice Center on Wednesday, May 3, 2017. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

A new online system aims to help Las Vegas residents who are facing eviction avoid a trip to the courthouse while they’re fighting the legal action.

The tool provided by the Las Vegas Justice Court allows people who have been served an eviction notice, but can’t pay the rent that’s due or otherwise address the underlying reason for their eviction, to file an answer in court. A tenant filing an answer triggers a process that results in a court setting a hearing date on the eviction.

When users choose the ‘SUMMARY EVICTION: Tenant’s Answer (Clark County)” option, the portal guides them through a series of questions, including what kind of eviction notice they received, whether they are still within the allowable time frame for filing a response, and whether the tenant has invoked the protections of the ongoing federal Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) moratorium, which bans many evictions through the end of the year.

Tenants are then asked their name, their landlord’s name and to check a box on a long list of possible reasons they are opposing the eviction. Renters can also indicate whether they want to pursue mediation — a process in which the landlord and tenant come together with a mediator to see whether the dispute can be resolved apart from eviction — and whether they prefer to do that virtually or in person.

The questionnaire can be completed on a computer or internet-connected phone; the tool will automatically generate documents to transfer to the court, eliminating the need to print or scan them.

Tenants also can apply for a waiver of the $71 fee the court requires for filing the reply. Users are asked questions about their financial status, including whether they are enrolled in Medicaid health insurance for people with low incomes, how many people live in their household and how much income they are getting each month from a variety of sources.

Paper documents are still accepted, but officials encourage those who have internet access to use the online process to prevent crowding at the courthouse.

The automated process applies in Las Vegas, but not North Las Vegas or Henderson, where users still need to print and file forms with the justice courts overseeing their cities.

Policymakers in Nevada are preparing for a wave of evictions as unemployment remains high during the pandemic. Although a statewide eviction moratorium expired Oct. 15, federal protections remain in place through the end of the calendar year, but tenants’ rights lawyers say landlords in many cases are attempting to proceed with evictions anyway and have courts determine the CDC moratorium is more narrow.

Gov. Steve Sisolak said in a press conference on Wednesday that he doesn’t have any plans to implement a state-level eviction moratorium again to provide an added layer of protection for renters should courts interpret the CDC moratorium’s scope narrowly.

“The Supreme Court has got the mediation program in place. I’m hopeful that will work for most people,” Sisolak said. “We’ll have to follow along and see how that goes and see if there's any problem before we make any changes to our directives.”

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