The problem with politicians trying to legislate good feelings and cater benevolence is that even the most well-intentioned law has negative side effects. Higher taxes lead to lower rates, attempts to make insurance more affordable makes it more expensive, and affordable housing laws make housing more pricey. The good intentions in this case are more arguable but its negative consequences are not.
Like others around the country, Legislators in Nevada thought that eviction laws were too strict and tried to loosen them in favor of the renters. On a philosophical basis this is a bad idea, because making it tougher for landlords to collect rent means that potential landlords will refuse to enter the market, or more strictly vet potential tenants so they never have to use eviction procedures in the first place. This makes it tougher for those who have struggled to pay the rent in the past to get new places to live.
Leaving that aside, the changes didn’t seem that onerous at first glance. The new law gives tenants better access to contest their eviction in court, reduces late fees, and adds various procedures that extend the average eviction process from about 10 to 15 business days. The touchy-feely reasoning behind this was that landlords held too much power and access to the courts compared to tenants who were struggling with paying the bills and often couldn’t get to court in time.
But the Trojan Horse of small changes almost immediately show negative consequences. Because the process takes longer and landlords are more likely to be challenged in court, management companies had to make changes to mitigate their lost income and higher costs. They made stricter deadlines for when rent is considered late and charged extra fees to cover legal costs.
Instead of placing the blame squarely on the politicians for changing laws that created foreseeable side effects, various nonprofit groups and politicians behind the law are complaining. For example, seniors often don’t receive their checks until the third of the month, so many are worried that they will be charged late fees for submitting their payments on the third. But the Las Vegas Review-Journal article spends more time on a sob story from a single senior and downplays how management companies offer seniors an exception.
As is usually the case when assessing legislation, the article completely disregards the role of personal responsibility. The law and the politicians and nonprofits behind its passage don’t consider how failing to pay the rent on time is not simply a case of bad luck, but often the result of extremely poor choices and lack of discipline or life skills on the part of the tenants. These laws end up protecting slackers and scofflaws and wind up penalizing those providing a valuable service like housing.
Instead of helping people avoid eviction, the government should instead create an environment where people have good jobs, with great retirement packages, to the point that they don’t have to worry about paying for the rent. But it’s far easier for politicians to broadcast their touchy-feely policies that save the people than require them to be responsible.