Renting? Know Your Rights

Photo by Krystal Ramirez

Photo by Krystal Ramirez

Some of the renters who live in the 18b Arts District are less than happy with their landlords. It is not the cost of rent but the conditions of their apartments that make them unhappy.

Some of the issues that we heard about include vermin, mold and problems with ventilation and air conditioning. Landlord/tenant disputes are nothing new for Las Vegas, and can get messy. However, there are some things that people should do to protect their rights, says Kris Bergstrom, directing attorney for Nevada Legal Services.

If you’re the tenant…

There are two kinds of problems. There’s the 48-hour kind, or essential services. That includes having a door that locks, electricity that’s working (assuming the bill has been paid), and hot and cold water.

Bergstrom warns that essential services don’t always include air conditioning. If air conditioning is included in the lease, or if it’s working when the renter moves in, then it’s an essential service that the landlord has to maintain. But if there’s no AC included in the lease, it can be the renter’s responsibility. (Best to ask for and get that commitment in writing.)

Nonessential services can include mold, vermin and other problems. In those cases, the landlord has 14 days to resolve the problem, or to take steps to resolve the issue.

If a renter has a dispute with a landlord, it’s important to document everything. Send a certified, dated letter to the landlord notifying him or her of the problem. Ask for it to be fixed.

If you’re the landlord …

In your case, documentation is just as important. If a renter is a problem, send certified, dated letters asking him or her to resolve those issues. Landlords must give tenants five days to resolve an issue before they can terminate a lease and begin the eviction process, or 14 days if they plan to charge the renter for the repairs or resolution.

If a landlord fails to resolve a problem, a renter can begin civil legal proceedings. Bergstrom emphasizes that withholding your rent is not a legal response to a failure to fix a problem. If you have started a legal action in small claims court, rent may have to be deposited in an escrow account just as regularly as the rent.

Other resources

Bergstrom’s nonprofit (702-386-0404) offers free classes on tenants’ rights every other week as well as free legal assistance to low-income individuals. If there’s a problem that is outside the structure and is a health and safety issue, you can contact the City of Las Vegas (or other local government) code enforcement (702-229-6615).