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Evictions: What Happens After the Moratorium's Over

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(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

A paper envelope written with the words "Rent Money $ " is left tucked in a lighting pole in the Boyle Heights east district of the city of Los Angeles on Wednesday, April 1, 2020.

On March 29, Governor Steve Sisolak signed an emergency directive putting a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures.

It includes not just standard apartments, but also extended stay and weekly rentals. 

Despite the directive from the governor, Nevada Legal Services Director of Litigation David Olshan said, his office is getting calls all the time about landlords evicting people from monthly and weekly rental hotels and motels.

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"The sad part for us is, sometimes the Reno Police or Las Vegas Metro will assist the landlords in harassing people or simply just telling them to go or you'll be arrested," he said.

He said police will use a variety of laws as back up to the threat but Olshan calls all of those charges "trumped up," because the weekly and monthly lodging is covered by the governor's order.

Chris Storke is the consumer rights project attorney at the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada

He said landlords often try to claim they're covered under the innkeeper statute, but they are actually included in the governor's order. Storke said many extended stay or weekly hotels move tenants around after their 30-day leases are up, but when they can't pay rent the harassment begins.

"I've seen hotels employ their own little private security force," he said, "I've heard of stories of tenants and guests being tased and being thrown out. I've also heard stories regarding the police being called and the guest being trespassed off property." 

Storke said some judges have ruled in favor of the landlords because the governor's order didn't specifically name "transient lodging," but to sue over the issue could take a long time. He said Attorney General Aaron Ford is working on the problem.

Besides using force or the threat of police, Storke and Olshan said, some landlords are "strong-arming" their tenants out by shutting off essential services, limiting access, or just changing the locks on the house or apartment.

Those kinds of harassment tactics are illegal. Storke recommends tenants who experience that kind of strong-arming should contact the Attorney General's Office. 

There are exceptions to the governor's rule, including being a danger to others, criminal activity or causing substantial damage to the property. Storke said landlords are getting creative about those definitions.

While the order is in place right now, a lot of people wonder what will happen when the order is lifted. People will have to pay rent for the months they missed.

Storke believes there will be a number of evictions when the order is lifted.

"When the emergency order is eventually lifted, then landlords are required to work with renters in good faith to try to enter into a repayment plan," he said, "The real problem is going to be a lot of these landlords are simply going to want to recover the property. So you're going to have a landslide of evictions that are going to start coming through Las Vegas Justice Court filing system."

He said the caseload will make it difficult to decide which landlords are trying to work something out in good faith and which are not. He suggests that people pay their rent - if they can - to avoid getting into legal trouble after the order is lifted.

Landlords are facing their own struggles. They depend on rental income to pay mortgages on the properties. Some have not wanted to talk to their lenders about mortgage forbearance for fear it would hurt their credit.

However, Olshan said under the CARES Act passed by Congress credit scores will not be impacted.

"Under the CARES Act, if you have a federally backed mortgage, whether it's four units or less, or multi-family, you do have the ability to enter into a forbearance," he said, "For the single-family, one to four units, you can get up to six months. For the multi-family, you can get up to 90 days. But whatever you do, that forbearance does not affect you negatively."

He said lenders cannot report the forbearance to credit report companies. 

 

Guests

David Olshan, Director of LitigationNevada Legal ServicesChris StorkeConsumer Rights Project AttorneyLegal Aid Center of Southern Nevada

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