Eviction Laws and Tenant Rights in Nebraska
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Landlords in Nebraska can’t just change the locks, toss your belongings out on the front yard, or shut down essential utilities. A landlord must follow the eviction process in order to have a tenant evicted for any reason. Here's an overview of what this means for tenants in Nebraska.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated December 13, 2021
Getting evicted in Nebraska can be a confusing and scary time. To help you get through it, we created the following guide. In this article, we’ll explain the basics of Nebraska’s eviction laws and your rights as a tenant or renter. While there are several reasons your landlord may try to evict you, you’ll find this article most useful if your landlord is trying to evict you because you’re behind on rent or because your lease is about to expire.
What Is Eviction?
Eviction is the civil legal process a landlord uses to remove a tenant or renter from a piece of property. Nebraska state law dictates how this process should occur. Specifically, the Nebraska Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (NURLTA) outlines the eviction process including reasons a landlord may evict a tenant and how the landlord should go about doing it.
If the landlord deviates from NURLTA’s requirements or tries to evict a tenant using other means not allowed by Nebraska law, then the landlord could be liable for an illegal eviction.
Depending on why the landlord wants to evict a tenant, there may be a few minor differences in the eviction process, but the basic principles are the same.
Who Can Be Evicted in Nebraska?
The Nebraska eviction process under NURLTA only applies to tenancies. For a tenancy to exist, there must be a landlord-tenant relationship between the renter and landowner. Often, this relationship is created when the landlord and renter sign a written lease or rental agreement. Non-tenants can also be evicted if they are living with the tenant, even if they haven’t signed the lease.
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Why Can Someone Be Evicted in Nebraska?
The NURLTA discusses four main reasons for evicting a tenant in Nebraska:
Being late, short, or behind on rent.
Breaching one or more terms of the lease, not including the requirement to pay rent.
Not leaving the property despite a lease no longer being in effect due to termination or expiration.
Engaging in certain illegal acts.
The majority of evictions in Nebraska occur because of the nonpayment of rent or because the tenant no longer has a lease. Generally speaking, the process of evicting a residential tenant in Nebraska is the same for either of these reasons. Any differences are small and concern what a landlord must do before beginning the eviction process.
Late, Short, or Behind on Rent?
In Nebraska, unless a lease says otherwise, rent payment is late if it’s not paid in full on its due date. However, many leases include a section that offers tenants a grace period of a few days. This allows them to pay rent a few days late but avoid late fees or eviction.
Lease Expiration or Termination
If the tenant has no lease agreement, they must leave the property. If they don’t, the landlord can evict them. This usually arises in two situations.
The first situation is that the lease has expired and the landlord chooses not to extend or renew it. A landlord may refuse to grant an existing tenant a new lease, even if the tenant hasn’t violated the lease and is willing and capable of paying rent.
The second situation is that the lease has been terminated. This is where the landlord prematurely ends the lease because the tenant has committed one or more lease violations. The primary difference between an eviction involving a lease expiration and a lease that is terminated is the amount of written notice the tenant receives before they must move out.
The Nebraska Eviction Process
Evictions can occur for both commercial and residential properties. But the following sections will only focus on residential evictions.
What does a landlord have to do to begin an eviction?
Nebraska evictions begin the same way they do in most states — with the landlord giving notice to the tenant. These notices may include information about the reason for the eviction and how much time the tenant has to fix the problem to avoid an eviction. The exact amount of notice depends on the reason for the eviction. If the eviction can’t be stopped, then the notice will explain how much time the tenant has before they must move out.
If the eviction is due to the nonpayment of rent, then the tenant will receive a seven-day notice. If the tenant fails to pay the past-due rent within seven days and remains at the property, the landlord can start eviction proceedings.
Landlords wishing to evict tenants for illegal behavior must give the tenant five days’ notice. Once this period expires, the landlord may start eviction proceedings. The landlord isn’t required to give the tenant a chance to remedy the situation and avoid eviction. Illegal activities that may form the basis of eviction include:
Physical assault or the threat of physical assault.
Illegal use of a weapon or the threat of using an illegal weapon.
Possession of illegal drugs.
Any other illegal activity that would endanger the health or safety of others or potentially damage the rental property.
Evictions that are a result of a violation of the rental agreement require the landlord to give 30 days’ notice. But the landlord must also give the tenant 14 days to cure the breach (which means addressing the issue) and avoid eviction. Tenants who don’t cure the breach by the 14-day deadline must move out of their rental unit by the end of the 30-day notice period.
If the landlord wants the tenant to move out at the end of the lease, in certain situations, the landlord must let the tenant know ahead of time of this intention. The amount of notice will depend on the type of tenancy.
For week-to-week tenancies, the landlord must provide at least seven days’ notice.
For month-to-month tenancies, the landlord must provide at least 30 days’ notice.
For leases with fixed terms, the landlord isn’t required to provide notice, although the lease will often have a provision stating how much notice the landlord will give if they decide not to renew the lease.
What happens once the eviction action is filed with the court?
The eviction begins when the landlord files a complaint of restitution with the clerk of either the district or county court. The court then issues a summons. This will contain basic information about the eviction lawsuit, including the reason you’re being sued, the date and time of the scheduled eviction court hearing, and a warning stating that not appearing at your court hearing means the court may grant a default judgment in favor of the landlord. This is where the landlord wins their case because you chose not to appear in court.
The next step of the eviction process is the landlord serving you with a copy of the complaint and summons within three days of the court issuing the summons. You may be served in the following ways:
Through certified mail;
Through a designated delivery service;
By a sheriff’s deputy or any other individual who’s not a party to the eviction lawsuit handing you a copy of the complaint and summons or leaving a copy at your residence with a “person of suitable age and discretion” who lives with you; or
By posting a copy of the complaint and summons on the front door of the rental property and also mailing you a copy via first-class mail to your last known address.
There are two things to note about this last method of service. It can only be used if the other methods of service fail. Also, if this “posting and mailing” method of service is used, the landlord can’t recover a monetary judgment from you in the eviction proceeding.
After you get served, you’ll have a chance to assert defenses to the eviction. One way you can do this is by filing an answer with the court. This is your written response to the allegations in the landlord’s complaint. Alternatively, you can show up at your hearing date and present your defenses at that time. And if you want, you can do both: file an answer and show up in court. Your defenses may include both affirmative defenses and counterclaims. The hearing date must be at least 10 to 14 days after you were served with the summons and complaint.
Telling Your Side of the Story: Affirmative Defenses and Counterclaims
When defending against the landlord’s attempt to evict you, you can present your defenses in two main ways. First, there are affirmative defenses. These are legal defenses that you must raise (you can’t rely on the court to raise them for you) that directly undermine the landlord’s reasons for evicting you. An example might include arguing that you paid your rent on time and in full when the landlord is arguing you should be evicted for nonpayment of rent. If your defense is successful, it can stop the eviction.
Second, there are counterclaims. These are separate legal claims from the eviction action. For instance, let’s say you refused to pay rent because you constantly had no electricity at your apartment. Under Nebraska law, your landlord can still evict you for the nonpayment of rent. But you could file a counterclaim against your landlord for monetary damages for the reduced value you received from the rental property as a result of not having electricity.
You may present any affirmative defenses or counterclaims in your answer or on the day of your hearing. Either way, be prepared to provide evidence to support your claims.
Keep in mind that the eviction matter won’t be decided by a jury. Instead, it’ll be a judge who makes the decision.
What Happens After an Eviction Trial?
After the hearing, the court will make a decision. This decision can come on the same day of the hearing or at a later time. If the court grants the eviction, they’ll issue a writ of restitution. This is a court order telling the constable or sheriff to ensure you leave the property within 10 days. When the writ of restitution gets issued, you need to promptly leave the property. If you don’t, a constable or sheriff’s deputy can physically remove you and your belongings.
If you disagree with the court’s decision to evict you or award the landlord monetary damages, you may file an appeal within 30 days of the judgment being entered. If you want to stay at the property during the appeals process, you must deposit money with the clerk of court. You’ll deposit an amount of money equal to the judgment against you. You must also continue making monthly deposits of an amount equal to your monthly rent to the court during the appeals process.
Practical Tips for Tenants Facing Eviction in Nebraska
If you want to fight the eviction, you need to act quickly to present your defenses. So the moment you learn that your landlord wants to evict you, you should work on identifying and gathering the evidence you’ll want to use to contest the eviction. Depending on your defenses, you’ll want to gather necessary documents, such as copies of your lease, receipts, bank statements, and invoices.
If applicable, you’ll also want pictures and videos. You might need to do this if one of your arguments relies on the fact that there’s something wrong with your rental unit. It may also be a good idea to have a municipal building inspector visit the property to create a report that can help confirm what’s wrong with the property.
As for your eviction hearing, you want to do everything in your power to attend. If you can’t, you risk the judge entering a default judgment in favor of the landlord. If you have a compelling reason as to why you can’t attend, contact the court and ask for your hearing to be rescheduled. The NURLTA requires the court to grant you a continuance “for good cause.” If the court refuses to grant you a continuance, then at the very least the court will know why you aren’t appearing. This makes it a lot less likely the judge will give the landlord a default judgment against you.
If you can avoid the eviction by meeting certain conditions, like making up past-due rent or curing a breach in the lease, make sure you document everything you’re doing. For instance, if you’re making extra payments to become current on your rent, make sure you get receipts not just showing that you dropped off your payment with the leasing office, but that your landlord received your payment and when they received it.
Whether you want to fight the eviction, move out, or stay, try to maintain an open line of communication with your landlord. Good communication makes it easier to negotiate some sort of agreement with your landlord.
This could include having more time to become current with your rent or cure a breach of the lease. Or the landlord could agree to drop the eviction proceeding against you in return for you moving out by a certain time. Even if you have to move out, this is a positive result for you because it avoids an eviction showing up in your rental history. This will make it easier to find housing in the future.
If you do reach an agreement with your landlord, be sure to get it in writing. Also, make sure it’s signed by both you and your landlord (or their representative, like a property manager).
Finally, don’t hesitate to take advantage of the various tenant resources available. There are many nonprofit organizations that help tenants understand their legal options, including access to rental assistance. You may also have access to a tenant’s rights lawyer at a reduced cost (or even for free). They can give you legal advice that will help you get a better grasp of your rental situation and figure out what you can do about it.
Tenant Resources in Nebraska
State of Nebraska Judicial Branch – Legal Resources and Information