Nevada Legislature needs to act now to protect renters

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The Legislature has a chance to make things better for renters who get a costly runaround from landlords. (Photo: Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau).

I was evicted in May 2019 and it was devastating to me and my economic security. Since then, I have struggled with housing insecurity, which left me especially vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Not having secure housing negatively impacted my job prospects. Because I was constantly moving from place to place so often and didn’t have a car, it was difficult for me to have reliable public transportation to and from work as things were changing so often

for me. I wanted to concentrate on my work and focus on organizing my community to achieve better outcomes, but a core tenant of my wellbeing – access to affordable and quality housing – was not secure.

Most days, I would organize for justice by day and then sleep on a coworker’s or friend’s couch or I rented rooms for a few weeks here and there. I didn’t tell anyone what I was going through because I didn’t know how to get through this incredibly hard time in my life all by myself. I did not reach out for help because I did not want to burden an already overwhelmed community ravaged by economic insecurity.

When the COVID-19 shutdown happened, my situation got worse because I was living in a casino hotel room at that time and it was closed on March 17, 2020. It was impossible for me to shelter-in-place safely, because I didn’t have a home and I couldn’t even quarantine if needed. Not having a secure home also made it harder for me to find a new place to live. I didn’t have a reference, no place to send mail, no address to securely receive essential packages or medicine, my credit record was ruined, and I had no address to list on my resume.

Finally, in July, I asked for help. I fundraised online through social media and raised enough money for rent, but still couldn’t find a place to live because I had an eviction on my record. To date, I have been denied housing 40 times due to my record and have lost hundreds of dollars in application fees.

Even now after I eventually found a place, I still don’t feel secure because I’m completely at the discretion of a landlord who is under no contract to let me stay another month. This wasn’t the first time I was faced with housing insecurity, as a survivor of domestic abuse, it was an impossible choice: Deal with abuse just so I could have a place to live, or leave an abusive relationship and risk being homeless – I chose the latter.

I know thousands of other Nevadans have faced hard times over the last year just like me. The Nevada Legislature has a chance to make things better for working families and directly-impacted people like me.

Two bills making their way through the 2021 Nevada Legislative session change policy to provide greater housing protections for all Nevadans. Senate Bill 218 addresses retaliatory and predatory behavior that has been on the rise in Nevada’s rental market and does away with predatory fines, fees, and practices.

Senate Bill 254 promotes “fair chance” housing, reducing the discrimination faced by countless potential renters.

The Nevada Legislature needs to take bold steps this session by passing SB218 and SB254, continuing to support legislation which will protect tenants during the pandemic, and addressing housing justice.

Yesenia Moya
Yesenia Moya is a member of For Our Future, which along with ACLU of Nevada, Coalition of Legal Service Providers, Culinary Union, Faith in Action Nevada, Make It Work Nevada, Make the Road Nevada, and the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada comprise the Nevada Housing Justice Alliance.