Battle over tenant discrimination continues as Nevada Senate takes up SB143

Battle over tenant discrimination continues as Nevada Senate takes up SB143

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Democratic Senator Dina Neal introduced a bill seeking to outlaw many types of housing discrimination after Gov. Steve Sisolak vetoed a similar bill following the 2021 Legislative session.

Senate Bill 143 (SB143) is the new designation for last session’s AB254.

Neal, who represents sections of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, told 8 News Now she has added language to the bill that prevents landlords from demanding higher income levels for people who cosign a lease. She said cosigners were expected to have an income five times higher than the rent, while applicants were asked to have three times higher than the rent.

“The policy is important to housing and recidivism. I am not giving up just because it was vetoed,” Neal said.

Democratic Senator Dina Neal answers questions during testimony on SB143.

SB143 prohibits asking about the criminal history of someone applying to rent a house or apartment, and narrowly defines crimes that are exceptions. Sisolak’s three-page letter explaining his veto said the legislation could force a landlord to rent to a known drug dealer.

The controversy over the legislation that led to Sisolak’s veto involved duplication of efforts for investigations the federal government was already handling. Sisolak was also concerned that landlords would have no choice in allowing convicted criminals to move in.

And although similar legislation passed two years ago, there was still plenty of controversy about some of its provisions.

Neal’s goal in sponsoring the bill comes from her desire to truly reintegrate people who have served their sentences. She contends that there are some questions that landlords don’t need to ask — particularly in seeking information about convictions that are five years or older.

But she draws the line at sexual offenses, and the worst violent crimes.

Neal’s bill also excludes discrimination claims for applications to rent single-family homes owned by “natural persons.”

Goicoechea also was concerned about truthful applications. “You still need to check that they’re telling you the truth,” he said.

“Either the decision is that you are no longer paying for your crime, or I need to keep you in prison or jail forever because I don’t believe that you’re ever going to be rehabilitated,” Neal said.

Republican Senator Pete Goicoechea, who represents a large area of rural Nevada, said, “I want to make sure we’re not going to make criminals out of a landlord that’s just trying to do the process.”

“I am specifically talking about people who have been freed,” Neal said. “There is no reason to continue to discriminate against a person who has already served their time. They’ve already supposedly been rehabilitated. That’s why we released them from prison. That’s why we acquitted them. Why are we discriminating against them at all?”

Testimony and public comment continued until the Senate Committee on Government Affairs adjourned just after 7 p.m. in Carson City.

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