I-Team: Just ‘days to move,’ thousands face threat of eviction even with moratoriums in place

I-Team

Court filings show threat of eviction remains amid pandemic

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Even with the state and federal eviction moratoriums in place, thousands of valley residents face the threat of losing their homes, data obtained by the I-Team shows.

The moratorium, which applies to most tenants, allows people to remain in their homes, even if they cannot currently pay rent amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak extended the state moratorium through the end of March. The federal eviction moratorium also expires at the end of March.

The protection is not automatic, and tenants must submit a signed declaration to landlords. To be eligible, three criteria must be met:

  • You must make less than $100,000 a year
  • You must provide proof that COVID-19 has impacted your income
  • You must show that you have nowhere else to go

“This last year has taken its toll,” Tina, who lives in Las Vegas and who did not want to reveal her last name, told the I-Team’s David Charns, holding back tears. With no job and facing eviction, Tina is like thousands of others across the valley.

Tina, who said she worked on the Strip until she lost her job in March, is unable to get unemployment benefits due to an issue with her Social Security card, she said. The little money her family is receiving comes from her daughter’s unemployment.

Since 2013, Tina has worked to buy the home she lives in with her daughter and dogs but was told last month she defaulted on payments from several years ago, documents show. She has paid rent on top of monthly payments to buy the home but was unable to pay rent for November and December, she said.

Then, a phone call.

“He called me Monday and said the house has been sold, and we have 18 days to move,” she said.

Evictions are down since Sisolak extended the moratorium, but not everyone is eligible, and they are still happening.

The I-Team found 330 new eviction filings from Dec. 1 to Jan. 15 in Henderson, 403 in North Las Vegas and more than 2,800 in Las Vegas and the bulk of unincorporated Clark County.

“What may not have been a crisis three months ago, now may be a real crisis,” Jim Berchtold, directing attorney at the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, said. “I hear the numbers that employment is coming back, and jobs are coming back, but it doesn’t feel that way on the ground when you’re talking to tenants who are crying because they’re being evicted, but have no place to go but the street.”

Tina showed the I-Team documents indicating her landlord, whose name is concealed through a trust, attempted to create a payment plan with her, but Tina said the trust now wants to sell to avoid bankruptcy.

Tina showed the I-Team documents indicating her landlord, whose name is concealed through a trust, attempted to create a payment plan with her, but Tina said the trust now wants to sell to avoid bankruptcy. (KLAS)

“It is a tough situation for both parties,” said Susy Vasquez, executive director of the Nevada State Apartment Association, which represents the owners of more than 140,000 rental units.

“We’re not in the business of evicting people,” Vasquez said. “We certainly want to keep our units full, so we’ve been opening up payment arrangements, and tenants have been really, really great.”

Vasquez stressed nine out of 10 times, landlords are able to create a plan, allowing tenants to remain in their units. A lot of times, landlords and staff at larger complexes know what is happening in a tenant’s life. But, if a tenant refuses to communicate or does not apply for assistance, eviction can be an option.

And, at the end of the day, all back rent needs to be paid, even if a declaration is signed, sealed and delivered.

Court documents show even amid the moratorium, eviction filings continue. (KLAS)

“The moratorium is not a rent waiver by any stretch of the imagination,” Berchtold said.

For Tina, with weeks until the end of the month, the clock is ticking to move out of the home she thought she would one day own. A dream the pandemic shattered.

“There’s no way my daughter and I are going to be able to move out of this house,” she said. “Ten years of our life is here.”

To help pay rent, Clark County’s CARES Housing Assistance Program, or CHAP, is available.

Resources for those facing eviction:

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