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VICTOR JOECKS: Don’t put new restrictions on Nevada evictions

Updated May 27, 2021 - 9:21 pm

If you don’t pay your rent, the government shouldn’t prevent your landlord from evicting you. But Gov. Steve Sisolak and some legislative Democrats have other ideas.

Since the start of the pandemic, both the federal government and Sisolak have imposed limitations on evictions. There was at least a coherent case for the initial restrictions. Namely, at the recommendation of federal authorities, the nation’s economy ground to a halt. Nevada’s unemployment rate hit nearly 30 percent. Many people who found themselves unemployed — through no fault of their own — couldn’t pay their rent. Landlords, government officials decided, would just have to eat the cost of lost rent for a while to prevent a secondary crisis.

The situation looks much better today than a year ago. Effective vaccines have dramatically reduced new cases, deaths and hospitalizations. Some states figured out how to keep their economies and schools going while protecting the most vulnerable. Unfortunately, Nevada was not one of them.

But even the situation here looks much better. Las Vegas isn’t completely back, but it looks a lot more like normal than not. Expect our town to swell with visitors this Memorial Day weekend. Things are so good that the Cosmopolitan is bringing back parking fees. Ugh. Local restaurants are having a hard time hiring enough workers, too.

The improvements were so obvious that Sisolak claimed he almost let Nevada’s eviction moratorium expire a few months back.

“Originally, I did not plan on extending this moratorium today,” Sisolak said in late March. He extended the state’s eviction ban until May 31, claiming it would give tenants time to access rental assistance. The federal moratorium, which has been ruled unconstitutional by more than one federal judge, lasts until June 30.

He reiterated, however, that there must be an end. “We must transition out of our eviction moratorium, but do so in a way that protects tenants and landlords to the greatest extent possible,” he said.

But with the end of Nevada’s eviction ban just days away, Sisolak once again threw landlords under the bus. He came out in support of Assembly Bill 486, which would limit their ability to get rid of tenants who don’t pay the rent.

Under the bill, it would be an “affirmative” defense against eviction for a tenant to say he has a “pending application for rental assistance.” Talk about a loophole. Is an application pending if the tenant started the process but didn’t submit the necessary paperwork? What if a tenant applies and then stops communicating with the landlord?

The bill would also stay most evictions for up to 30 days to allow the courts to conduct alternative dispute resolution. The potential to abuse that system for 30 days of free rent is obvious.

Most incredibly, these provisions wouldn’t expire until June 2023.

There should be concern about a wave of evictions when the moratorium expires. That’s the natural consequence of not allowing evictions for months on end. If Sisolak was so worried about this, he never should have imposed an eviction ban.

The economy is recovering. It’s time to let landlords recover their property, too.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com.

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