As evictions rise, NE renters need to know their rights
Friday, September 29, 2023
High rent prices are draining the budgets of many Nebraska renters, who are paying between 30% and 50% of their income on rent.
In some parts of the state, this affects nearly half of renters - and evictions are on the rise. The first six months of 2023 saw almost 1,400 more eviction cases than at the same time in 2022.
Scott Mertz, director of the housing unit at Legal Aid of Nebraska, said tenants with financial difficulties and facing eviction will usually qualify for their services. He said they're often able to get people a "better outcome," which may allow them to stay in place.
"If that's not achievable," he said, "the next stage is a combination of how much time we can help somebody get to get somewhere else and avoid that court order - that judgment being on their record."
Mertz stressed that an eviction stays on a person's record for decades, which can limit future rental opportunities and lead to job loss, health problems and even homelessness. As of this week, Nebraska Investment Financing Authority has begun accepting applications for rental and utility assistance from people in a large part of the state.
NIFA Executive Director Shannon Harner said $48 million of COVID-related Emergency Rental Assistance Funds is available for people outside the Omaha and Lincoln areas, which received their ERA funds earlier. She said the money is to help stabilize households that are struggling to afford rent and utilities.
"In that application, they can apply for past-due rent, and up to three months of future rent," she said. "There are priority households that may be able to come back and request yet additional assistance beyond that, and those qualifications are at Nebraskarenthelp.org.
Information is also available through the NIFA call center at 844-429-6575.
Mertz said renters facing eviction need to know their rights, which includes how much notice they're entitled to.
"If you're in public housing; if you have your rent subsidized - typically what's called Section 8 - you should get 30 days," he said. "But also, in properties who are getting a federal benefit because their financing comes through federal programs, individuals should get the 30-day notice."
Nebraska law only requires that landlords give renters seven days' notice. Mertz said people at risk of eviction should call Legal Aid of Nebraska as early in the process as possible, to find out about their rights and whether they qualify for representation. The Statewide Accessline is 1-877-250-2016.
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