When Carter found out she was approved for nearly $1,800 in assistance to wipe out unpaid rent for the Siegel Suites apartment she and her two children, 14 and 6, live in, she thought it would be enough to prevent an eviction.
But Carter, who preferred not to use her first name out of fear of retaliation, said an email from the Clark County’s CARES Housing Assistance Program indicating the money would be allocated by March 31 didn’t stop her property manager from issuing a “no cause” eviction notice on Friday.
“If I’m evicted, I’ll end up on the streets. I’m not from here and don’t have family here,” she said “You think you’re going to get back on track and things are going to get better, but then it’s snatched away.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Monday it was extending the national eviction moratorium, which was set to expire Wednesday, until June 30.
But ahead of the CDC’s announcement, Bailey Bortolin, the statewide advocacy, outreach and policy director for the Nevada Coalition of Legal Service Providers, said landlords and property managers “got a jump start” on evicting tenants.
She said there was a massive surge in eviction notices in March, specifically for no cause evictions, in which landlords don’t need to give a reason except for the expiration of a lease.
“We were afraid this was going to happen,” she said. “We saw 30-day no cause eviction notices for month-to-month leases at the beginning of the month. Weekly rentals have seven-day no cause eviction timelines. It’s the idea of trying to get a jump on no cause evictions on day one.”
While the CDC’s moratorium extension is welcomed by housing and legal groups and would prevent an influx of tenants from losing housing in the middle of a pandemic, there are still concerns landlords and property managers are using no cause evictions
“There’s a clear intent to circumvent any protections or assistance programs that are in place,” Bortolin said.
Even though landlords file a no cause eviction, she said “they are really evicting people for nonpayment of rent, but a lot of the programs are structured to assist people who receive a nonpayment of rent eviction.”
In an email, Gov. Steve Sisolak’s office said it is still evaluating the CDC’s moratorium to determine its next steps.
Many are hoping Sisolak extends directive 36, a state specific moratorium that went into effect Dec. 14 that allowed tenants to submit a declaration to landlords showing they were eligible for eviction protections. That directive is also set to expire Wednesday.
Directive 36 “applies the intent of the CDC protection to the state of Nevada so there aren’t loopholes to the eviction protections,” Bortolin said. “It provides so much clarity and guidance for the courts and tenants and landlords to how the process works. It will be difficult if there are only CDC protections.”
One in six renters
The American Rescue Plan, the latest federal stimulus package signed into law March 11, allocated an additional $21.5 billion in rental assistance along with more money for unemployment and $1,400 economic impact payments to individuals making less than $75,000..
But disseminating the funding will take time as agencies develop guidance on how states and local governments spend their allotted dollars.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that one in six renters in the United States haven’t been able to catch up on rent yet.
The crisis disproportionately affects people of color. CBP noted that “24 percent of Black renters, 21 percent of Latino renters, and 20 percent of Asian renters said they were not caught up on rent, compared to 12 percent of white renters.”
According to the Center, an estimated 22 percent of vulnerable renters are “parents or otherwise live with children.”
Because of the large portion of households who have children at risk of eviction, Bortolin said the June 30 extension would prevent families from being uprooted at the end of the school year.
“We are so close to the end of the academic school year and just think about the kids and what their school year has been and experiences have been,” she said. “The idea of kids, after everything they’ve been through and have one month left in the academic school year, would go through an eviction.”
In addition to all the normal disruption and trauma that follows an eviction, families would also have to navigate school zoning obstacles and set up the Internet so their children could finish the school year.
“They inevitably miss school when their family goes through an eviction crisis,” she said. “After all of this, it seems like not too much to ask — it seems rational — to get the kids to the end of the academic year before we undergo such mass transition.”
But the promise of more federal assistance didn’t stop landlords and property managers from sending out notices in March.
Bortolin worries because landlords acted prematurely there might have been mass evictions in March, but instead of people going through the legal process, they left on their own accord.
“The vast majority of evictions in Nevada don’t see the light of the courtroom,” she said. “Most people will give up and will move out. They (landlords) are just hoping people will comply. It’s a scare tactic to get people to leave.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, Carter was able to work at an Amazon warehouse and paid rent without any problems.
But virtual learning proved to be an obstacle for her son, who is legally blind and required assistance. She had to reduce her hours, working anywhere between five and ten hours a week, in order to help him complete assignments.
“I have to be home for the school so I basically work enough to try to pay the rent,” she said.
Then in September, she had medical issues that required surgery.
“I was out of work for two months, and ever since then it has been rough for me,” Carter said. “I work in a warehouse, so I bend and lift and stand a lot. I wasn’t able to work.”
For the first time since the pandemic began, she started to fall behind. She applied for rental assistance from the Clark County’s CARES Housing Assistance Program (CHAP) in November, only to be told funds had been exhausted.
Following the injection of additional money authorized by federal relief legislation, she was told she was eligible for rental assistance in January.
Carter said she kept the property manager up to date on her application process, including her approval letter.
“She called me in the office saying they got an email from CHAP saying the payment should be here by the 31st,” she said. “About two days after that, I received a 5-day notice.”
Carter isn’t the only person to receive a no cause eviction notice recently.
For the last few weeks, Eric Upright watched as neighbors at his Siegel Suites property received notices and were forced to leave.
After struggling to keep up with rent for the last few months, Upright finally received an eviction notice as well on Thursday.
“At the beginning of the pandemic I got laid off and had been trying to keep up with rent as much as possible,” he said.
Upright lost his job in construction last year.
Initially, he was able to get help from friends and acquaintances to pay rent.
He recently started working on an application for rental assistance, but said some of the process is confusing and he has had a difficult time submitting all the needed paperwork.
After the American Rescue Plan promised another direct payment, Upright planned to use the money to leave his apartment and find another place. But the eviction notice came faster than the $1,400 check.
Over the weekend, he finally received the economic impact payment and was able to bring his rent current, preventing the eviction.
“I wanted to use the money to move out, but I had to use it to pay my rent for the month,” he said. “I feel I’m only delaying the inevitable.”
Bortolin said his case shows that some property managers are trying to exploit the loophole.
“If they really just wanted to evict for no cause, they would have continued despite the tenant becoming current on rent, which shows it was a clear case of subterfuge for nonpayment of rent,” she said.
With the latest moratorium, Bortolin said it is a “mad dash” to get the word out to tenants who are at risk of eviction.
Tenant advocates and county officials, have been urging renters to apply for rental assistance and respond to eviction notices as soon as they receive them.
“If you receive an eviction notice, absolutely file an answer with the court and elect mediation if you can,” Bortolin said.
In the meantime, the Biden Administration indicated both the Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will be monitoring landlords who violate the order.
They are urging renters who might be unjustly facing evictions to file complaints.