Worried about eviction? Take these steps

As coronavirus cases increase in Southern Nevada and businesses are shut down to slow the spread, many Valley residents may soon face financial hardships that could inhibit their ability to pay rent. Here’s what to do if you’ve fallen behind on rent payments, or fear that you might.

 

1. Talk to your landlord. “I’ve heard from a lot of landlords where the resident has been very proactive and they’ve maintained open lines of communication. Then, all of a sudden, MGM [or] the Culinary Union cuts them a check for the rent that they’re past due, and then they’re good,” says Susy Vasquez, executive director of the Nevada State Apartment Association. “Maintaining a good relationship and good communication with your landlord is imperative right now. I cannot stress that enough.”

 

2. Learn all you can. “Collect as much information as possible,” says Jim Berchtold, directing attorney for the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada’s Consumer Rights Project. “I would get my pay stubs. I would get my unemployment statement. I would talk to my landlord and get a ledger that says exactly how much rent I owe. I would review that ledger to make sure it doesn’t improperly include late fees, so that I know exactly, to the dime, how much that landlord might need to be paid … if I should stay in that unit.”

 

3. Assess your situation realistically. “It doesn’t make sense to say, ‘I want to pay all my back rent,’ if I’m living in a unit that I can’t afford,” Berchtold says. “If I have [a limited or] no prospect of future employment, have no idea what my unemployment [insurance] is going to kick in or have no idea when I’m going to return to work, maybe I should think about downsizing … moving in with a roommate, moving back home, changing my situation. … I would advise tenants to really take a really critical look at their current situation, start gathering documentation, wait for that [rental assistance] plan to come online and then figure out … how they can use it to most effectively put themselves in the best situation they can be in.”

 

4. Apply for rental assistance, or look for other kinds of help. Preapplication for the City of Las Vegas Housing Assistance Program has begun and will continue until July 31 or until the funds are depleted; visit lasvegasnevada.gov/residents/housing-assistance-program to begin the application process. Similar assistance programs, provided by Clark County and the State of Nevada, should be available soon; watch for them. If you’d like to find a subsidized apartment suitable for a diminished-income household, visit hud.gov/states/nevada/renting. And if you have legal questions, head to Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada’s COVID-19 “tool kit”—lacsn.org/covid-19—for a series of “virtual town halls” on evictions and repayment plans.

 

This story appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.