Tenant Defenses to Evictions in Nevada
If you're a renter facing eviction, learn the legal grounds you have to fight your eviction in Nevada. Here's how.
In Nevada, a landlord can evict a tenant for not paying rent or for violating the lease or rental agreement. However, the tenant may have some options, or legal defenses, available to challenge the eviction.
This article will provide guidance about legal defenses available to tenants in Nevada.
Nevada's Eviction Process
A landlord may evict a tenant, through either a formal eviction process or a summary eviction process, for not paying rent or for violating part of the lease or rental agreement. The eviction notice requirements for lease violations are slightly different from the eviction notice requirements for nonpayment of rent.
A landlord would use the formal eviction process when suing for both possession of the rental unit and money damages in the same lawsuit. The summary eviction process is used only for gaining possession of the rental unit. The landlord can still sue for money damages, just in a separate lawsuit. The procedures outlined below describe the entire eviction process. To learn more about the differences between the two eviction processes, see the overview of the eviction process at the Clark County court website.
Notice Requirements for Nonpayment of Rent
A landlord who is evicting a tenant for not paying rent must give the tenant a five-day eviction notice, also called a 5-day notice to pay rent or quit. The tenant would then have five days from the date of receiving the notice to either pay the rent or move out of the rental unit. If the tenant chooses to challenge the eviction and does not move out of the rental unit or pay the rent, then the landlord's next step will be to file an eviction lawsuit, also called an unlawful detainer suit (see NRS § 40.253). The tenant would then receive a copy of the complaint and summons, which would also have information about the hearing. The tenant then has five days to file an answer with the court detailing any defenses the tenant wishes to use to challenge the eviction. Both the landlord and the tenant must appear at the scheduled hearing, where the judge will make the final decision about whether the tenant is to be evicted or not.
Notice Requirements for Lease Violations
A landlord who is evicting a tenant for violating a portion of the lease or rental agreement must give the tenant a five-day eviction notice, also called a 5-day notice to quit for violation of rental agreement (see state law NRS § 40.2516). If the tenant does not move out of the rental unit or correct the violation within the five-day time period, then the landlord must send the tenant a second notice, called the unlawful detainer notice. This notice gives the tenant another five days to move out of the rental unit before the landlord files the eviction lawsuit with the justice court.
If the tenant still does not move out of the rental unit, then the landlord will need to file the paperwork for the eviction lawsuit. The tenant will receive a copy of the paperwork and will have five days to file an answer, if the tenant chooses to challenge the eviction. The tenant and landlord must then both appear at the hearing, where the judge will listen to both parties' arguments. The judge will then make a decision about whether to evict the tenant.
For more information on the eviction process for nonpayment of rent or lease violations, see the eviction section of the Clark County court website.
Keep in mind that it might not always be worth it for a tenant to fight an eviction. If the tenant loses, the tenant could end up paying the landlord's court and attorneys' fees, in addition to receiving a negative credit rating. The tenant's best option might be to try to negotiate a deal with the landlord outside the court system. Many communities have free or low-cost mediation services that handle landlord-tenant disputes; local resources are available through the website mediate. com and the American Arbitration Association. The mediation faqs on the Nolo site provide more information on the subject. That said, read on for advice on when it might make sense to try and stop an eviction in Nevada.
Defenses Available to Tenants in Nevada
There could be several legal defenses available to a tenant facing eviction in Nevada.
Landlord Evicted Tenant Using "Self-Help" Procedures
To evict a tenant in Nevada, a landlord must obtain a judgment from the court. It is illegal for a landlord to try to force a tenant to leave a rental unit in any other way, including changing the locks on the rental unit or shutting off utilities to the premises. This type of unlawful eviction is often referred to as a self-help eviction, and Nevada law specifically makes it illegal (see NRS § 118A.390). See the Nolo article Illegal Eviction Procedures in Nevada for more information.
Landlord Did Not Follow Proper Eviction Procedures
It is important that landlords carefully follow all the procedures when evicting a tenant, particularly in regard to sending the tenant the eviction notice. If the landlord does not do so, then the tenant can use the landlord's failure to follow procedure as a defense to delay the eviction. For example, if the landlord does not give the tenant any notice before filing the eviction lawsuit, the tenant can use the failure to receive notice as a defense against the lawsuit (see Gasser v. Jet Craft Ltd., 487 P. 2d 346 (1971)).
This defense will not stop an eviction completely, if the landlord is justified in evicting the tenant; it will merely delay the eviction proceedings. If the landlord corrects the mistake, then the eviction will proceed as normal. This defense only gives the tenant more time to remain in the rental unit.
Tenant Is Being Evicted for Not Paying Rent
A tenant may have a few legal defenses available to challenge an eviction for nonpayment of rent.
Tenant Has Paid Rent in Full
Upon receiving an eviction notice for nonpayment of rent, the tenant will have five days to either pay the rent or move out of the rental unit. If the tenant pays the rent in full during the five-day time period, the landlord must not proceed with the eviction lawsuit. If the landlord proceeds with the eviction anyway, the tenant can use evidence of the rent payment during the five-day time frame as a defense against the eviction (see NRS § 40.253(1)(a)).
Landlord Did Not Make Necessary Repairs
The landlord has a legal responsibility to maintain the rental unit in a habitable condition. According to NRS § 118A.290, this means the rental unit must not violate any housing or health codes and it must have:
- waterproofing and weather protection on the walls and windows
- working plumbing facilities
- running hot and cold water that is connected to a working sewage disposal system
- working heating facilities
- working electrical system
- adequate garbage receptacles and access to garbage removal services, and
- clean and sanitary premises when the tenant moves into the rental unit.
If the rental unit is defective in any of these areas, the tenant must notify the landlord in writing of the needed repairs. The landlord will have fourteen days to make the necessary repairs. If the landlord does not make the repairs within the fourteen-day time period, the tenant has two options regarding rent payments:
1. The tenant can withhold rent until the landlord makes the repairs (see NRS § 118A.355).
2. The tenant can arrange to have the repairs made and deduct the amount of the repairs from the rent owed to the landlord (see NRS § 118A.360).
If the landlord then attempts to evict the tenant for nonpayment of rent, the tenant could use evidence of the landlord's failure to make necessary repairs as a defense to the eviction.
Landlord Evicts Tenant for Lease Violation
If a landlord is evicting a tenant for violating a portion of the lease agreement, then the landlord must give the tenant an opportunity to fix the violation, if possible. Upon receiving the five-day eviction notice, the tenant would have five days to fix the violation. Examples of lease violations that could be remedied include having pets when none are allowed or parking in unauthorized spaces. If the tenant fixes the violation within the time period and the landlord proceeds with the eviction anyway, the tenant can use evidence that the tenant fixed the violation as a defense against the eviction (see NRS § 40.2516).
Landlord Is Evicting the Tenant in Retaliation
A landlord cannot evict a tenant in retaliation for exercising certain legal rights, including:
- complaining to a government authority about any code violations
- organizing or joining a tenant's union, or
- filing a lawsuit against the landlord for failing to maintain the premises.
See NRS § 118A.510.
If the landlord tries to evict a tenant in retaliation, the tenant can use evidence of the tenant's legal actions as a defense against the eviction. See the Nolo article Nevada State Laws Prohibiting Landlord Retaliation for more information.
Landlord Is Evicting Tenant for Discriminatory Reasons
The federal Fair Housing Act makes it illegal for a landlord to discriminate against a tenant based on race, religion, gender, national origin, familial status (including children under the age of 18 and pregnant women), and disability. In addition, the Nevada Fair Housing Law also makes it illegal for a landlord to discriminate against a tenant based on sexual orientation. If a landlord evicts a tenant based on any of these characteristics, the tenant can use the discrimination as a defense against the eviction. See the Nolo article Housing Discrimination Prohibited by State and Local Law for more on laws prohibiting discrimination against tenants.
Tenant Resources for Challenging an Eviction in Nevada
The Clark County court provides a very helpful overview of the eviction process in Nevada. In addition, Nevada Legal Services, a nonprofit legal aid organization, also provides some helpful questions and answers regarding the eviction process in Nevada. Tenants who live in federally assisted housing should also check out the tenant resource page at HUD.gov.
Your local court is also a good resource. Eviction lawsuits must be filed in the justice court of the township where the rental unit is located. To find your justice court, visit the online directory maintained by the Supreme Court of Nevada. Many courts may have helpful online resources available for tenants, such as the Clark County Court and the Sparks Justice Court in Washoe County.
When to Hire an Experienced Tenant's Lawyer
If you have questions about your eviction case or defense or the landlord has already retained a lawyer, you should probably also contact a lawyer. If the landlord is filing a formal eviction lawsuit, you may also want to hire a lawyer, since those cases tend to be more complicated than summary evictions. A lawyer can handle the whole case or give you advice on how to proceed. A lawyer can also let you know how likely you are to win your case. You may especially want to hire an attorney if you are confident of your case and your lease or rental agreement entitles you to attorney fees if you win in court.
For advice on finding a good lawyer, see the Nolo article How to Find an Excellent Attorney.
Also check out Nolo’s Lawyer Directory for Nevada lawyers who specialize in landlord-tenant law.
More Information on Evictions and Terminations
For more information on tenant rights, see Every Tenant’s Legal Guide, by Janet Portman and Marcia Stewart (Nolo).