Tenant protection omnibus bill clears first round

Lawmakers advanced a bill from general file March 25 that was amended to include several changes to existing landlord and tenant statutes.

<a href='http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist09' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. John Cavanaugh'>Sen. John Cavanaugh</a>
Sen. John Cavanaugh

LB320, sponsored by Omaha Sen. John Cavanaugh, would allow a tenant who is a victim of domestic violence to seek early release from a rental agreement under certain conditions.

Cavanaugh said the bill would ensure that the court system works more efficiently for all parties.

“This change will allow for more flexibility in how these cases are resolved, which will get a better resolution for everyone involved,” he said.

To be released from a rental agreement, the tenant would be required to provide their landlord with a copy of an active protective or restraining order or certification confirming domestic abuse by a qualified nonprofit organization that provides services to victims of domestic violence.

Additionally, the tenant must provide written notice, including the date of release — to be no sooner than 14 days and no later than 30 days — and the names of any household members also to be released.

The tenant would be required to pay rent for the month in which the agreement was terminated, but would not be liable for any rent, damages or fees incurred after the release date.

A Judiciary Committee amendment clarifies that the protections proposed under LB320 would not be available to a perpetrator of domestic violence. It also would incorporate the provisions of several additional measures, including:
• LB45, sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Matt Hansen, which would repeal a provision prohibiting judges from granting continuances in eviction proceedings unless extraordinary cause is shown and accrued back rent is paid;
• LB46, also sponsored by Hansen, which would require that summons in an eviction proceeding be conducted through methods commonly used in civil proceedings, unless otherwise authorized;
• LB246, sponsored by Bennington Sen. Wendy DeBoer, which would require that a civil action for possession against renters of mobile home lots follow the same procedures as those brought against renters of mobile homes, apartments, houses and other residences;
• LB268, sponsored by Omaha Sen. John McCollister, which would require landlords to provide written notice to each individual unit 24 hours before seeking entry;
• LB277, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Megan Hunt, which would update the Mobile Home Landlord and Tenant act to reflect changes made in 2019 to the Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act; and
• LB402, sponsored by DeBoer, which would require the Nebraska Supreme Court to submit a biannual report to the Legislature with information pertaining to eviction procedures.

DeBoer spoke in support of the amended LB320. She said the committee amendment was a product of extensive negotiations between lawmakers and tenant and landlord groups.

“Together, we have put together some little but meaningful adjustments … which make our laws stronger and better for all sides,” DeBoer said.

Under an amendment introduced by Omaha Sen. John Cavanaugh, adopted 36-0, tenants could receive a first continuance by showing good cause and would be required to show extraordinary cause for any subsequent continuances. Additionally, if an approved continuance extends into a new rental period, the tenant could be required to deposit rental payments that accrue while the eviction proceeding is pending.

Lincoln Sen. Matt Hansen supported the Cavanaugh amendment, calling it a measured approach that allows tenants some flexibility while protecting the interests of landlords.

Following the 40-1 adoption of the Judiciary Committee amendment, senators voted 42-3 to advance LB320 to select file.

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