Despite Governor Steve Sisolak’s moratorium on evictions, some tenants in Nevada are reporting that they’re being harassed or bullied.
Before the pandemic, Katlynn Stover was a cocktail waitress at the Santa Fe Station Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. She found out from the news that she lost her job, which meant she wasn’t going to be able to pay her rent for the apartment she lives at, which is owned by Siegel Suites, a company that runs apartment complexes in several states. She told the manager about her situation but she said she’s been receiving notes on her door that the eviction process is underway.
"I was so stressed out. First off, I'm trying to figure out just how to get through the day, like eating and stuff like that, and then you guys are telling me you're going to kick me out. What am I even supposed to do right there?” Stover asked.
In addition to the eviction notices, Stover said she was also told she would be facing room inspections. A 24-hour notice is required by law for these inspections, but Stover alleged that management has been going into her room when she leaves the building.
"I could understand if it was just me, you know what I mean? If I was the only one that lost my job because something I did. I've been here six months and I've never once been late. I've never not paid. I've never had any complaints. So there's no reason that they should be coming at me,” Stover said.
Stover filed a complaint with the corporate arm of Siegel Suites in late March, after Gov. Sisolak announced the moratorium on evictions.
She said management backed off for several days, but on April 4, she received another note on her door, threatening eviction and daily visual inspections until rent is paid.
Michael Crandall is senior vice president for the Siegel Group Nevada. He talked to KUNR earlier this month about separate allegations of tenant bullying, but he wasn’t available in time for this story. Here’s what he said about the company’s practices as they relate to the moratorium on evictions.
"We're 100 percent following Governor Sisolak's order. We've been in touch with all of the state and local officials in Nevada — in Reno, in Vegas and in all areas we do business — and we're following their order. We're working very closely with them,” Crandall said.
Heidi Foreman-Toney is a tenants' rights counselor with Nevada Legal Services. Stover is one of her clients. During the pandemic, she’s seeing a surge of landlords bullying tenants.
“They're typically going through the regular eviction process. So what we're seeing now, usually a rare occurrence, but because there’s a stay on all evictions, they're getting more creative and more aggressive with how they go about conducting their business,” Foreman-Toney said.
Foreman-Toney said tenants can protect themselves.
"Three hundred sixty-five days a year, I want tenants to know their rights. Right now, it's a situation where people are out of work and without the governor's moratorium, they'd be facing homelessness,” Foreman-Toney said. “There's just a horrible illness out there. We’re in the middle of a pandemic and we just need people to stay at home. But how can you stay home and be healthy when you're being pushed out the doors of your home?”
Foreman-Toney encourages tenants who are receiving eviction notices or experiencing bullying to file a complaint to the Nevada Attorney General’s office — and people are. The AG’s Chief of Staff, Jessica Adair, spoke about what the office is facing during an interim finance committee meeting for the Nevada legislature.
“Our office has been taking complaints from renters seven days a week. I've never seen the call volume that we have, email volume that we have received from folks who are terrified of being evicted or wrongly being threatened with eviction,” Adair said.
A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s office said no one from the office is available for an interview. The office did release an email statement that said they are looking into complaints made against landlords. It said, “Violations will be dealt with harshly,” and landlords could be on the hook for paying increased damages if they are found in violation of the governor’s directive.
Here’s the email response KUNR received from the Attorney General's office regarding enforcement of the eviction moratorium:
The Directive was issued pursuant to the emergency powers granted to the Governor in accordance with NRS chapter 414. The directive states that violations will be dealt with harshly. AG Ford has directed his Bureau of Consumer Protection to take any lawful measures in enforcing violations and to do so in a manner that ensures compliance with the Directive. His Bureau of Consumer Protection has authority to enforce NRS chapter 598 which includes potential action with treble damages for each violation. Again, AG Ford is encouraging individuals in this situation, or with any concern regarding the Governor’s eviction moratorium, to file a complaint with the AG’s office here http://ag.nv.gov/Complaints/File_Complaint/. In addition, AG Ford encourages individuals to reach out to Legal Aids or private attorneys for assistance with their rights.
KUNR's Paul Boger contributed to this report.