By Suzanne Potter
Complaints by Nevada tenants to legal-aid organizations have shot up this summer, as landlords began raising fees after a new law, Senate Bill 151, went into effect. Now, Attorney General Aaron Ford is letting renters know that landlords cannot unilaterally raise fees.
The law requires landlords to wait seven days instead of five before giving notice to pay rent or move, and limits late fees to 5% of the rent payment. Jim Berchtold, directing attorney at the Consumer Rights Project of the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, said he believes many landlords misunderstood the bill and overreacted.
“They just used the opportunity to raise a bunch of fees and then blame it on SB 151, as if the increase in fees was somehow resulting from the bill,” Berchtold said.
He said more than 5,000 people in the Las Vegas area alone received improper notices raising rent or fees or eliminating grace periods, even when they had signed a lease.
Berchtold said people should know their rights – and can seek help from a legal-aid group, a private attorney or the Civil Law Self-Help Center at their local courthouse.
“Like any other contract, one of the parties can’t just change the terms,” he said. “So, just like a tenant cannot decide unilaterally to pay less rent, the landlord cannot decide unilaterally to increase the rent.”
The Legal Aid Center has a tip sheet on renters’ rights on its website. The AG said landlords can’t change the financial terms of a lease while it’s in effect. They can, however, adopt rules about how the tenant may use the unit, such as building quiet times, pet allowances and trash disposal.
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