A debate is seething on Capitol Hill over the legality of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s decision to extend its controversial moratorium on evictions. Closer to home, another debate is underway as to whether the moratorium applies to Nevada.
The CDC extended its federal moratorium on evictions, just days after letting its original moratorium expire on Saturday, until October 3.
The latest extension is intended to prevent the deportation of millions of Americans, but concerns have been raised that it may not protect Nevadans due to the recently passed state Bill 486, which offers strong protections for tenants facing eviction. And the situation has led to debate among Nevada legal experts.
The debate stems from a recent order from Las Vegas Court of Justice Hearing Judge David Brown, who said last month that the CDC’s eviction moratorium did not apply in Nevada because the project The state’s recently passed eviction law, Bill 486, offers âthe same or greater level of health protection.â But some legal experts say Brown’s order is wrong.
“With all due respect to the court, I think the court is totally wrong on this issue,” said Jim Berchtold, lead lawyer for the Consumer Rights Project at the Southern Nevada Legal Aid Center. “I hope they reconsider their position because I believe Nevada tenants are entitled to this protection (CDC).”
Brown and Las Vegas courthouse judge Melissa Saragosa did not respond to the request for comment.
The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment on this story, but told the Review-Journal on Tuesday that it “expects more guidance to come from the CDC on the basis of this new moratorium. in the next few days “.
Despite the uncertainty, Berchtold said the organization’s advice to tenants remains the same. Tenants are encouraged to:
– Apply for the CARES Housing Assistance Program, or CHAP.
– File a response with the court if they receive an eviction notice from their owner or property manager.
– Choose mediation when filing its response and notify the court if it has a pending CHAP request.
He added that the Legal Aid Center also encourages eligible tenants to sign a CDC declaration form and return it to their landlord. Like previous CDC orders, the latest moratorium still requires tenants to register.
âBut be aware that this may not give you the protection you need,â Berchtold said, alluding to Brown’s statement that the CDC order was not applicable in Nevada. âWe still have to act. All the things that we told (tenants) to do, they still have to do.
The CDC order also makes it clear that tenants are still required to pay any missed payments. Landlords can continue to charge late fees or penalties and challenge a tenant’s CDC declaration form in court if they believe the tenant is not covered by the moratorium on evictions.
Unlike previous CDC orders, which offered comprehensive protection in all states, the new federal moratorium on evictions only applies to counties with substantial or high rates of community transmission of COVID-19.
That means tenants in all but five Nevada counties – Storey, Pershing, Lander, Eureka and Esmeralda – would be protected from eviction for non-payment of rent, according to CDC data.
But the order is not retroactive. Tenants whose evictions were approved by a judge from August 1-3 are not protected by the new ordinance. Those still awaiting a decision or who have just received an eviction notice are protected by the moratorium on evictions, according to the CDC.
Susy Vasquez, executive director of the Nevada State Apartment Association, said in a statement that a prolonged moratorium on evictions put both sides at risk.
“The longer the moratorium on evictions remains in place and the longer it takes for rent assistance to reach those who desperately need it, the more severe the housing affordability crisis will be on the other side of the pandemic. “she said.
But Nevada tenants are still on shaky ground due to Brown’s recent order, according to Las Vegas attorney Dayvid Figler, who has publicly criticized Brown’s decision.
âBased on my analysis of Hearing Master Brown’s interpretation of the CDC and AB486 guidelines, I think their reasoning is questionable and susceptible to review by a higher court,â Figler said. “He issued an order asserting that AB486 is in fact a moratorium and therefore, in his legal analysis, no CDC moratorium has previously been issued or the current one applies in Nevada.”
It sounds like a semantic quarrel, but it is one with real consequences for landlords and their tenants. The CDC said its ordinance does not apply to states with “a moratorium on residential evictions” offering an equal or greater level of protection. Brown said in his order that AB486 meets this qualification because “Nevada law offers protection equal to or greater than that of the CDC order.”
“What is a moratorium for?” It’s to stop the evictions, âsaid Terry Moore, lawyer with Marquis Aurbach Coffing in Las Vegas. âAB486 does that. It’s broader than the CDC because it applies to all tenants and it avoids evictions for people who have applied for rent assistance.
AB486 requires that all eviction hearings be suspended or suspended for up to 30 days and placed in mediation. It allows tenants with a pending rental assistance application to suspend their eviction until the application is processed and offers several other protections that last until June 2023.
Berchtold said that although AB486 offers protections to tenants, many are still evicted despite claiming to have a pending rental assistance application, and tenants who appeal to district court find a ruling in their favor. .
“The district court sends a clear signal to the Court of Justice, but the Court of Justice simply does not hear it and refuses to change its procedures,” said Berchtold. “So it looks like a system crash and the people who really suffer from it are the tenants, and that’s one of the reasons it’s so important for the CDC’s moratorium to apply in Nevada.”