Housing stability is new focus for Las Vegas Justice Court, now overrun with eviction hearings

Court grants could assist struggling residents
A new court-based program could help thousands of people avoid losing their homes.
Published: Oct. 12, 2022 at 8:06 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - A new court-based program could help thousands of people avoid losing their homes. But Las Vegas landlords are hoping the program also facilitates a quicker process for court hearings.

“I mean it sounds good, but a lot of things sound good when we hear them,” said landlord Jason Elleman, who owns several hundred units in the valley. “How is it going to be implemented?”

The Las Vegas Justice Court has been awarded $1.25 million in new grant funding, and they are using it to create an Eviction Diversion Program, which aims to “give landlords and tenants the best chance at mitigating harm of eviction,” said Justice Court Chief Judge Melissa Saragosa.

The grant is offered through the National Center for State Courts, made possible with funding from the Wells Fargo Foundation.

In a post-moratorium world, Las Vegas courts have been swamped. The Las Vegas Justice Court typically handles about 30,000 eviction cases a year, but lately, that number has gone up to about 45,000 a year, according to Clark County officials.

“Numbers have increased, but our staff has not,” said Saragosa. “It is a true burden on the court system.”

As a result of this bottleneck, landlords report having trouble with getting an eviction hearing on the calendar.

“Prior to COVID, it would take maybe four to five weeks to evict someone who wouldn’t pay rent. Now we’re looking at four, five-- and the latest ones-- even six months before we’re able to evict someone who hasn’t paid rent,” said Elleman. “The court says the reason it’s taking so long is because of the influx of cases.

The grant aims to provide a judicially supervised CARE Team, including staff supported by case managers, eligibility specialists and legal office specialists. They will collaborate with mediators and local nonprofits that focus on fighting homelessness.

“For the first time ever, the court and the county social services will really be working together as a team to really address the issues we’re facing,” said Saragosa.

But landlords like Elleman tell FOX5 that they hope the additional staff will help him to get into eviction hearings sooner because, in the meantime, he said those tenants get to live in his units rent-free.

“They’re unfairly putting that burden on us landlords to house these people for free that are not paying rent, with zero guarantee that we will get paid by either the tenant or the government,” said Elleman. “Allowing these people to go six months without any consequences and without me getting any revenue.”

He continued, “In the meantime, I still have all my obligations to these tenants. I still have to pay for the trash, the water, the sewer, the insurance, the mortgage, repairs.”

The eviction diversion program will officially get underway on November 1, 2022.

FOX5 will continue looking into how the program aims to help the courts, as well as tenants and landlords alike.