LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Nevada’s eviction process puts tenants at a disadvantage, according to a Nevada lawmaker who is trying to change the procedure to give people more time to deal with a housing crisis.

The proposal would give the tenant some time — seven days — to figure out what they are going to do.

Assembly Bill 340 (AB340) would make changes to evictions. The bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Shondra Summers-Armstrong (D-Las Vegas), passed the Assembly on a party-line vote on April 25 and was presented to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

The changes are pretty simple, according to Jonathan Norman of Nevada’s Coalition of Legal Services. “We want people who have legal defenses to know that they’ve been served with a lawsuit, and to be able to avail themselves of the court,” Norman said, and AB340 would do that.

Currently, the eviction process is the only civil court process in Nevada that requires an answer before a complaint has been filed, according to Norman.

Jonathan Norman of Nevada’s Coalition of Legal Services.

A lot of people don’t really understand what’s about to happen, according to Norman.

And then they’re out on the street.

“Every Nevadan deserves an affordable and stable place to call home,” said Shanzeh Aslam, of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN), testifying in support of the bill. “Yet the current summary eviction process allows landlords to entirely sidestep the judicial system when trying to evict residents from their home and places the burden on tenants to initiate a court case.”

She said the time to get help often runs out during a summary eviction.

In the first weeks of 2023, Las Vegas had the most eviction filings among major U.S. cities, according to the Culinary Union, which turned out in support of AB340.

The major change in the bill is to require the landlord to take the first step in getting the court system involved instead of the tenant.

“What we’re proposing in this legislation, primarily, is this one change: At the end of the 7-day notice, the tenant gets that 7-day notice ‘you haven’t paid your rent,’ they can pay or they can vacate. And instead of filing an answer, on the eighth day the landlord files a complaint, serves the tenant with that court-stamped document so they know this an official proceeding, and then the tenant has seven days to file an answer,” Norman said.

“So I think those seven days, even in cases where we don’t have a defense, those days will matter for families,” he said.

“If we think of the cascading damage that does to families, that rapid lockout, kids are probably going to have to change schools, you have potential job loss if you have to then try to pack up your property on that short notice period and get out,” Norman said.

The bill also counts time in calendar days instead of “court days.” That will speed up the process slightly and eliminate confusion about when courts do business and when they are closed.

Shanieka Cooper told her story during testimony in support of the bill. She said she was told repeatedly not to worry about an eviction notice. When it happened, she had five days to find shelter for her disabled son, she said.

“I was not trying to get free rent,” Cooper said. She believes the landlord wanted her out so the rent could be raised.

John Sande of the Nevada State Apartment Association testified in opposition because the changes would extend the amount of time necessary to evict a tenant. He drew comparisons to California law, which prioritizes quick action on evictions. “AB340 allows the process to end with no relief, requiring the landlord to start over completely to pursue the eviction under the formal process.”