Property Rights vs. Housing Rights. Renters are pushing back.
The pandemic and resulting media outcry over eviction actions has brought on a new set of challenges for Nebraska’s landlords. Renters are more knowledgeable about the law and are more likely to retaliate by filing a complaint with a public agency. Renters also have virtually unlimited access to free legal representation and will be given a volunteer attorney to defend their interests in court.
In April 2020, The Tenant Assistance Project (TAP) was created to ensure that renters have access to legal representation. A division of the Volunteer Lawyers Project, this agency will appoint a volunteer attorney to defend against eviction proceedings for any renter who requests to have an attorney.
Legal Aid of Nebraska also represents renters and actively defends against evictions in court. Legal Aid has has published a comprehensive Landlord and Tenant Handbook to inform tenants of their legal rights. Legal Aid of Nebraska also has an online portal Tenants – Legal Aid of Nebraska to provide renters with legal help.
A displeased renter is more likely to complain to a public agency in response to an eviction action. Unhappy renters often file complaints with a housing enforcement agency to report suspected code violations. Sometimes renters will file a complaint with a federal or state agency like the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission (NEOC) claiming discrimination. Landlords should be aware that the City of Omaha has a mandatory Omaha Rental Registration requiring all residential rental properties to be registered with the City’s Permits and Inspections Department.
Advocates for housing rights have been largely successful in swaying public opinion towards renters and against investors. Check out the January / February 2022 issue of Nebraska Lawyer Magazine praising the efforts of the Volunteer Lawyers Project: On TAP: VLP Engages in Clinics to Address Housing. And for what claims to offer a ‘balanced perspective’ on evictions, check out Nebraska Lawyer Magazine’s article entitled Property Rights v. Housing Rights.