Lombardo veto of rent stabilization for seniors may not bode well for other housing measures

By: - June 2, 2023 11:55 am

A bill to rein in rent increases for seniors was "an unreasonable restraint on standard business activity,” the governor said. (Photo: Ronda Churchill)

Gov. Joe Lombardo vetoed legislation offering one year rent stabilization for seniors and modest regulations on application fees on Thursday night, possibly casting a shadow on the prospects of other housing-related legislation still under consideration.

He hasn’t taken any action yet on a slew of other housing legislation that have passed that would bolster tenant protections and make changes to eviction proceedings

Sponsored by Democratic Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, Assembly Bill 298 sought to cap rent increases at 10% for people older than 62 or rely on disability insurance benefits while also would have required landlords to refund application fees for unscreened tenants. 

In his veto message, Lombardo called the legislation “needlessly heavy handed” and “an unreasonable restraint on standard business activity.”

Rents throughout Nevada have raised, on average, more than 20% – Clark County officials have noted as high as 30% in some cases – since the start of the pandemic, squeezing tenants, in particular seniors living on fixed incomes. 

Jauregui, who proposed implementing the cap from July 1, 2023 through Dec. 31, 2024, likened the bill to a pilot program that would give the state “the opportunity to see if this is something that works for our state or not.” 

The bill to stabilize rent for seniors also would have required landlords to include an appendix that outlines all the fees associated with renting the place and return application fees if they don’t screen a tenant who applied for the unit. 

“If ten applications come in for one unit and the landlord and property manager take that first application, then the fees for the other nine would be returned,” Jauregui said during the first bill hearing in March. 

While backed by housing justice organizers and the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, it also received rare support from the Nevada Realtors Association and the Vegas Chamber of Commerce. 

Lawmakers failed to advance legislation in 2021 that sought to rein in deposit and application fees. The current session has seen several proposals targeting hidden fees.  

Lombardo has signed one housing bill into law. Senate Bill 381 prevents landlords from charging tenants fees to perform repairs and takes effect July 1.

The legislation, which passed both houses unanimously, was also supported by the Nevada Realtors Association. 

Other housing bills that have passed both houses: 

Assembly Bill 218, which would require landlords to offer a free way for tenants to pay rent other than through an online portal, and mandate all non optional fees connected to the rental, such as sewer and water fees, be listed when advertising the property. 

Senate Bill 78, which prevents landlords from collecting unlimited application fees on a single unit by prohibiting charging fees to other prospective tenants “unless the application or applications for that dwelling unit have been denied.” 

Assembly Bill 340, which would reverse the current summary eviction process, and put the onus on the landlord to file with the court. The current process, which is unique to the state, requires tenants be the first to file a case with the court after receiving a pay-or-quit notice

Senate Bill 335, which would allow justice courts to create eviction diversion programs and  stay eviction proceedings up to 60 days if a tenant is waiting for rental assistance. If the tenant is denied assistance, the eviction would proceed. 

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Michael Lyle
Michael Lyle

Michael Lyle (MJ to some) has been a journalist in Las Vegas for eight years. While he covers a range of topics from homelessness to the criminal justice system, he gravitates toward stories about race relations and LGBTQ issues.