This week, Gov. Steve Sisolak extended the state’s eviction moratorium until mid-October. Right after that announcement, the Trump administration banned evictions until the end of 2020 for renters who have lost work due to the COVID-19 pandemic and don't have available housing options. KUNR’s Michelle Billman talked to Lucia Starbuck about what tenants in Nevada can expect.
Michelle Billman: The Trump administration ordered a halt on evictions nationwide through December, and that was enacted through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Can you break down what that will look like for Nevadans?
Lucia Starbuck: The national ban is for nonpayment of rent, so it protects tenants who have lost work due to COVID-19 and don't have any other available housing options. Sisolak extended Nevada's eviction moratorium for nonpayment of rent until mid-October. The national ban gives tenants in Nevada some extra time.
Billman: What will tenants have to do to prove that they are protected by that national eviction ban?
Starbuck: Tenants are required to fill out a declaration under penalty of perjury form that says they qualify and they must give this form to their landlord.
Billman: Who ultimately is protected by this? Who qualifies for the national eviction ban?
Starbuck: Tenants who make less than $99,000 in annual income, or if you're a joint filer, no more than $198,000, or if a tenant received a stimulus check.
Tenants will also have to declare that they are unable to pay their rent or housing payment due to a substantial loss of household income, like being laid off or a significant loss of hours, or if they have an “extraordinary” out-of-pocket medical expense that is likely to exceed 7.5% of one's adjusted gross income for the year.
Tenants must also make their best efforts to make some kind of payment. Tenants must also declare that if they were to be evicted they would be homeless.
Billman: What will happen to landlords who violate the national ban, and is there any relief for the landlords in our state?
Starbuck: Landlords could face criminal penalties and fines for violating the ban, and so can tenants if they fill out the form incorrectly or inaccurately. During one of Sisolak's press conferences this week, a reporter asked him about relief for landlords. If tenants apply for rental assistance, the money will go directly toward the landlord.
“We made sure that any of those funds, those resources, go directly to the landlord,” Sisolak said, “We do understand that it is putting an enormous strain on the property owner.”
Billman: What kinds of evictions can still take place in Nevada, even with these protections?
Starbuck: Evictions for things other than nonpayment of rent can currently take place as of Sept. 1. This includes, if your landlord alleges that you're committing a lease violation or nuisance, if your lease has expired and you're on a month-to-month contract and your landlord issues you a 30-Day No-Cause Eviction.
Once Sisolak's eviction moratorium ends, tenants who do not qualify for the national eviction ban protections can also get evicted for nonpayment of rent.
Billman: What about rent? Is that still due during this time?
Starbuck: Yes, that is true under Sisolak's eviction moratorium and the national eviction ban. Back rent is due if that has not been paid. Rent has, and will continue to still be due, moving forward.
Billman: What about late fees?
Starbuck: In Nevada, late fees were prohibited from March 30 to Aug. 31. Late fees for mobile home park residents started Aug. 1. Late fees can begin on new rent under both the statewide eviction moratorium and the federal ban on Sept 1.
Billman: What should tenants do right now with this extra time? What should their first steps be?
Starbuck: The first thing is to apply for rental assistance. Housing advocates are telling me people should apply, even if you don't think you might qualify. There is no harm in applying. I talked to Rhea Gertken, the Deputy Attorney for the Nevada Legal Services' office in Reno, and she said tenants should just really take this time to plan.
“Take some time to really look at: What are your longterm abilities to either, increase your income, or is this a time that you need to just like, get everything together and start finding somewhere else? Now you have a little bit of breathing room to do so,” Gertken said.
Tenants can also get into a repayment plan with their landlord, but should only do that if the plan is feasible. Officials are encouraging landlords and tenants to work together during this time. We are still in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, being evicted and trying to relocate can be a risk for spreading or contracting COVID-19. For landlords, finding new tenants right now can be costly and collecting partial rent is better than none.
Click here for the Declaration under penalty of perjury for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s temporary halt in evictions to prevent further spread of COVID-19 form.
Reno Housing Authority: http://www.renoha.org/chap/
Nevada Rural Housing Authority: https://nvrural.org/renter-services/covid/
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