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Nevada legislators with rental properties voted against bills helping tenants

Jessica Hill, Las Vegas Review-Journal on

Published in News & Features

At least six Nevada legislators who own rental properties voted against bills affecting rentals — from capping rent increases for seniors to increasing transparency on rental leases — prompting concerns about special interests’ influence on government.

The four different pieces of legislation passed the Democratic majority Legislature along mostly party lines, although they were ultimately vetoed by Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo, who later received criticism for rejecting the bills related to tenants rights and eviction reform.

Democrats say the legislation would have eased the Silver State’s affordable housing shortage, curbed eviction rates and increased transparency in rental agreements, while Republican legislators — some of whom were landlords themselves — argue the bills would have stymied the development of affordable housing units and created onerous burdens on landlords.

Political science and housing policy experts, however, called into question the conflict of landlords voting on legislation relating to rentals.

Nevada’s citizen legislature is made up of legislators who either have jobs that allow them to step away for six months every other year or are retired, said Ben Iness, coalition coordinator for the Nevada Housing Justice Alliance.

Many legislators are real estate agents, landlords or others involved in the housing industry, he said.

 

“What that means is that when we get these really promising, exciting, urgent and crucial tenant protection bills, that there’s this conflict of interest where they just kind of hit these walls,” Iness said. “It’s a weird conflict and dynamic.”

Fred Lokken, a political science professor at Truckee Meadows Community College, thinks it is a conflict of interest for legislators who own rental properties to then vote on legislation regarding rentals.

While legislators did not violate the state’s ethics policies, which Lokken said are not the most stringent, the best practice would be for legislators to recuse themselves, he said.

“It looks like they have something to lose if they approve the legislation,” Lokken said.

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