Fair to All: Housing Discrimination and Retaliation Laws in Nevada
When you are a tenant in Nevada, your landlord cannot discriminate, harass, or even retaliate against you. Did you know that housing discrimination alone is against Nevada and even federal law?
Yes, there are laws out there that prohibit a landlord from discriminating against you based on your:
- Gender Identity
- Sexual Orientation
- National Origin
- Familial Status
Navigating the Fair Housing Act in Nevada
When it comes to housing, Nevada has firm legal frameworks that are designed to ensure fair treatment for everyone. At the heart of these laws is the Fair Housing Act, which has a significant impact on how housing discrimination and retaliation are viewed and handled in the state. This federal law, enacted in 1968, prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. It forms the backbone of Nevada’s housing discrimination laws.
Scope of the Fair Housing Act in Nevada
In Nevada, the Fair Housing Act has a broad scope and extends to numerous housing-related activities. These include rentals, sales, advertising, financing, and insurance related to housing.
Protected Classes under the Fair Housing Act in Nevada
In addition to the federal protected classes, Nevada adds extra layers of protection to include sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, ancestry, and use of a service or assistance animal.
How Nevada Enforces the Fair Housing Act
In Nevada, the primary enforcement agency for the Fair Housing Act is the Nevada Equal Rights Commission (NERC). The NERC handles complaints, conducts investigations, and can bring legal action against parties found to be in violation of the Act.
The Nevada Real Estate Division (NRED) also plays a crucial role in upholding the Fair Housing Act. They work to ensure that real estate professionals across the state abide by fair housing laws.
What Type of Housing Discrimination is Not Allowed in Nevada?
If you are unfamiliar with the federal Fair Housing Act, you will want to peek into that because that is what prohibits ANY discrimination based on the following characteristics:
- Familial Status
- National Origin
Now, Nevada law has their own section that is against housing discrimination. Landlords in Nevada will NOT be allowed to discriminate against you based on the added following:
- Gender Expression
- Gender Identity
- Sexual Orientation
Examples of Housing Discrimination
Now, that you know what a landlord cannot discriminate against, let’s get down to examples of housing discrimination. All the below examples are things that a landlord CANNOT do to you as a tenant. It does not matter if you are a current or a new potential tenant.
- Landlord refusing to rent to, sell to, or even compromise with you
- Landlord discriminating against privileges, conditions, and terms of housing, which can include security deposits, lease terms, purchase terms, types of residency, insurance rates, and interest rates
- Landlord refusing to make the dwelling available to you
- Landlord refusing any inspection to you, but allows others
- Landlord advertising the dwelling for certain limitations or preferences when it comes to who is allowed and not allowed
- Landlord intimidating, interfering, coercing, or threatening you for trying to avoid housing discrimination
You should also note that the Fair Housing Act does have an exception when it comes to religious organizations. Their exception is that it will allow the religious organization to limit or even give preference to people who hold the same religious views as they do.
The Fair Housing Act also allows the private clubs that are not open to the general public to have preference to its members ONLY if the club has a lodge that is for non-commercial use only.
Definition of Retaliation in the Context of Housing
In legal terms, retaliation refers to punitive actions taken by a landlord against a tenant in response to the tenant exercising their legal rights. These rights can include reporting a violation of housing standards, joining or organizing a tenants’ union, or filing a complaint for discrimination.
Typical Scenarios of Retaliation in Housing with Examples
Retaliation can take many forms, such as:
- Unjustified eviction: For instance, a landlord might attempt to evict a tenant who reported a building code violation to local authorities.
- Rent increase: A landlord might significantly increase the rent of a tenant who joined a tenants’ union.
- Decreased services: A landlord might stop providing previously offered services, like trash collection or maintenance, to a tenant who filed a discrimination complaint.
Understanding Retaliation Laws in Nevada
Retaliation in the housing context refers to adverse actions taken by landlords against tenants who exercise their legal rights. In Nevada, there are legal protections in place to prevent retaliation in housing.
Nevada law (NRS 118A.510) expressly forbids landlords from retaliating against tenants who exercise their legal rights. This includes tenants who complain about unsafe or unhealthy conditions, join or organize tenant unions, or file discrimination complaints.
Rights of Tenants in Nevada Against Retaliation
Tenants in Nevada have the right to:
- Report health, safety, or housing code violations without fear of retaliation
- Organize or join a tenant union or similar organization
- File a complaint for housing discrimination
- Defend their rights in court if a landlord attempts to evict them as retaliation
Legal Remedies Available for Victims of Housing Retaliation in Nevada
Victims of housing retaliation in Nevada can seek various remedies, including:
- Stay of eviction: If a tenant can prove that an eviction notice is a retaliatory act, a court can stop the eviction process.
- Damages: A tenant may receive financial compensation for any loss suffered due to retaliation, such as moving expenses, higher rent paid elsewhere, or emotional distress.
- Penalties: The landlord may also be subject to penalties imposed by the court for their retaliatory actions.
What Does the Law Say About People with Disabilities?
Of course, up until now, we only really dived into housing discrimination based on everything but your disabilities.
Just like above, landlords in the state of Nevada CANNOT discriminate against you based on your disabilities either. Landlords will be required to make reasonable modifications to their dwellings to accommodate you and your disabilities to ensure that you have equal opportunity to enjoy their housing and common spaces.
You should also note that a landlord cannot refuse to rent to you because you have a disability. The landlord cannot refuse you having a service animal as well. A service animal cannot have pet rent tacked on as well since it is NOT in the same category as a regular pet.
You should also note that all newly built multifamily housing units such as apartments, condos, and townhomes, will be required to be designed in such a way that will be accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities.
The Consequences of Violating the Fair Housing Act in Nevada
Penalties from the Nevada Equal Rights Commission
The NERC, which enforces the Fair Housing Act in Nevada, can impose a range of penalties on individuals or entities found guilty of housing discrimination. The penalties can include orders to cease and desist from discriminatory practices, to correct the discriminatory condition, and/or to take affirmative actions to promote fair housing.
Monetary Fines for Violations
Apart from corrective actions, NERC can also impose monetary penalties for violating the Fair Housing Act. The amount of the fine varies depending on the nature and severity of the violation, and whether the offender has previously committed any violations. For first-time offenders, the fine can be as high as $16,000. For repeat offenders, the penalty can rise to $65,000.
Legal Repercussions for Retaliation in Nevada Housing
In Nevada, housing providers who retaliate against tenants for exercising their rights can face severe consequences. These can include orders to cease the retaliatory behavior, to correct any harm caused by the retaliation, and to compensate the tenant for any losses.
Monetary fines are also a common penalty for retaliation. As with discrimination, the amount can vary, but it can be substantial, especially for repeat offenders.
Tips to Avoid Housing Discrimination Claims
Navigating housing laws as a landlord in Nevada can be challenging. To ensure you’re in compliance with the Fair Housing Act and Nevada’s own laws, consider these tips to avoid discrimination claims.
Adopting and Implementing Fair Housing Practices
Develop a Standardized Screening Process
Having a standardized tenant screening process is essential to avoid claims of discrimination. Every applicant should go through the same process, be it background checks, credit checks, or references. This ensures all prospective tenants are evaluated on the same criteria, minimizing the risk of bias or discrimination.
Use Objective Criteria for Tenant Selection
To avoid discrimination claims, it’s crucial to use objective criteria when selecting tenants. This can include factors like income level, credit history, and references from previous landlords. Avoid any selection criteria that could discriminate against protected classes.
Providing Reasonable Accommodations
Understanding and Fulfilling Accommodation Requirements
The Fair Housing Act requires landlords to provide “reasonable accommodations” to tenants with disabilities. This may include making modifications to a dwelling or altering rules, policies, or services to ensure equal housing opportunities. Understanding what constitutes a reasonable accommodation and being willing to provide these when necessary can help avoid discrimination claims.
Offering Equal Services and Facilities
Avoid Unequal Treatment in Housing Services
It’s crucial to provide the same level of service and access to facilities to all tenants. This includes maintenance, use of amenities, and any services provided as part of the rental agreement. Unequal treatment can lead to discrimination claims.
Regular Training and Education
Stay Updated with Fair Housing Laws
Landlords should make an effort to stay updated on changes to federal, state, and local fair housing laws. Regular training and education sessions can help ensure compliance with these laws.
Work with Legal Professionals
Working with a lawyer or a professional experienced in Nevada’s housing laws can be a valuable resource. They can offer advice on best practices and ensure your policies and procedures comply with the Fair Housing Act and Nevada’s discrimination laws.
Your Rights as a Disabled Tenant with a Pet in Nevada
As a disabled person with a pet in Nevada, understanding your housing rights is essential. The Fair Housing Act and Nevada state laws offer protections to ensure you’re not unjustly refused housing or harassed due to your disability or the presence of your pet.
Legal Protections for Disabled Individuals
Under the Fair Housing Act, landlords cannot refuse to rent to an individual because of a disability. They are also required to make reasonable accommodations for disabled tenants. This can include modifying a dwelling or changing rules, policies, or services to ensure disabled individuals have equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.
Nevada law further strengthens these protections, making it illegal to discriminate against individuals based on disability in any aspect related to housing.
Rights Concerning Service or Assistance Animals
It’s essential to differentiate between pets and service or assistance animals. While pets are not covered under the Fair Housing Act’s reasonable accommodations provisions, service or assistance animals are. These animals are considered tools necessary for those with disabilities to have equal use and enjoyment of their housing.
Your Rights as a Tenant with a Service or Assistance Animal
Landlords cannot refuse to rent to you because you have a service or assistance animal, even if they have a “no pets” policy. Furthermore, they cannot charge additional pet fees or deposits for a service or assistance animal, as these are not considered pets but rather necessary accommodations for a disability.
Addressing Harassment from a Landlord
Harassment from a landlord due to your disability or your service or assistance animal is illegal under both federal and Nevada state laws. Such harassment can include repeated, unwanted contact, threats, or any behavior that creates a hostile living environment.
If you experience harassment from a landlord, you can file a complaint with the Nevada Equal Rights Commission or seek legal counsel to understand your rights and options.
Unauthorized Entry by Landlords
Unauthorized entry by a landlord can feel like a significant invasion of privacy. In Nevada, the law provides specific guidelines about when and how a landlord can enter a rental unit, ensuring a balance between a tenant’s right to privacy and a landlord’s right to maintain the property.
Under Nevada law, landlords have the right to enter a rental unit in certain circumstances. These include:
- To inspect the premises
- To make necessary or agreed repairs
- To show the property to potential buyers or tenants
However, a landlord must provide notice before entering, except in case of an emergency.
Notice of Entry
The law requires landlords in Nevada to provide at least 24 hours’ notice before entering a tenant’s unit. The notice must specify the reason for entry and the date and time of the intended entry.
Document the Unauthorized Entry
If a landlord enters your rental unit without proper notice or a valid reason, start by documenting the unauthorized entry. This can include writing down the dates and times, taking photographs or video footage, or collecting testimonies from witnesses.
Communicate with the Landlord
Next, communicate your concerns to the landlord. This should be done in writing, clearly stating the unauthorized entry’s date and time and how it violated your rights. Be sure to keep a copy of this communication for your records.
File a Complaint
If the landlord continues to enter without permission, you may file a complaint with a local housing authority or take legal action. Consult with a lawyer to understand your rights and the best course of action.
What Action Can I Take When Someone Discriminates Against Me?
If you find yourself being discriminated against, you can do a few different things. You can either file a complaint with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development or you can file a complaint with the Nevada Equal Rights Commission.
If you choose not to file a complaint with either organization, you can always file a lawsuit in federal or state court.
How Long Do I Have to File A Lawsuit or a Complaint?
In the state of Nevada, you will be required to file your lawsuit within a year after the alleged violation happened. However, in the federal law, you are given two years from the time the alleged violation happened to file a claim.
How Can a Landlord Retaliate Against Me?
A landlord cannot discriminate against you, but the landlord cannot even retaliate against you either. Retaliation means a landlord that either decides to not renew your lease, ends your lease abruptly, raises your rent, or takes away your utilities and/or amenities.
What Can I Do if a Landlord Retaliates Against Me?
If you find yourself dealing with a landlord that is retaliating against you, you as the tenant can sue your landlord for the following:
- To Cover your court cost, but also to punish the landlord (can be up to a maximum of $2,500)
- To cover any loss or injury you may have suffered.
Filing a Housing Discrimination or Retaliation Complaint
If you believe you’ve been a victim of housing discrimination or retaliation in Nevada, you have the right to file a complaint. But to do so, you must provide certain information to ensure a thorough investigation. Here’s what you need to know.
Your Contact Information
To file a complaint, you’ll need to provide your full name, address, and contact information. This allows the Nevada Equal Rights Commission (NERC) or other investigative bodies to reach out to you for further information and updates about the case.
Details of the Incident
You must provide detailed information about the incident, including:
- The date and location of the alleged discrimination or retaliation
- A detailed description of what occurred
- The reason you believe the actions were discriminatory or retaliatory
- The name, address, and contact information of the person or entity you believe discriminated against or retaliated against you
You should include any documents that could support your claim. This could be a copy of a lease or rental agreement, emails or text messages, written notices, photographs, or any other evidence that might help substantiate your claim.
If there are witnesses who saw the discrimination or retaliation, their names and contact information should be provided. Their testimony can provide valuable evidence in your case.
Legal Remedies and Corrective Actions
Cease and Desist Orders
If a landlord or housing provider is found guilty of discrimination or retaliation, the Nevada Equal Rights Commission (NERC) can issue a cease and desist order. This order compels the offender to stop their unlawful actions immediately.
The NERC can also mandate corrective actions. This could include modifying a dwelling to accommodate a disability, changing discriminatory policies or practices, or reinstating a tenant who was wrongfully evicted due to discrimination or retaliation.
Damages for Harm Suffered
Victims of housing discrimination or retaliation may be awarded monetary damages to compensate for any harm they suffered. This can cover a range of losses, including emotional distress, moving expenses, or any rent difference if the victim had to move to a more expensive dwelling due to the discrimination or retaliation.
The NERC can also impose monetary penalties on the offender, separate from any damages awarded to the victim. These fines are intended to deter future discrimination or retaliation.
In some cases, the NERC may order the offender to take affirmative actions to promote fair housing. This could include implementing non-discrimination policies or providing fair housing training for employees.