In Nebraska, as with any other state, if rent is paid in a timely manner in exchange for inhabiting property, a landlord-tenant relationship is established (even without a written lease), and with this relationship comes rights and responsibilities for both parties.
Basic Landlord Responsibilities
Keep the rental fit to live in. The landlord is required to provide housing that is habitable and to make repairs in a timely manner when required.
Quiet enjoyment. The landlord is required not to disturb the tenant’s rights to peacefully and reasonably use their rented space.
Basic Tenant Responsibilities
Pay rent on time. If the tenant does not pay rent in full and in a timely manner, the landlord has the right to take action to end the tenancy.
Cover excessive damages. Tenants are responsible to cover the costs of damages to the property beyond normal “wear and tear”.
With that said, Nebraska varies from other states on additional rights and responsibilities for both landlords and tenants. Nebraska law even varies on both the interpretation of the above rights and the rules on handling violations.
Warranty of Habitability in Nebraska
Landlord Responsibilities. The state of Nebraska requires that all landlords operating within their jurisdiction adhere to all relevant health and safety codes, including while their rental units are occupied. For the most part, these statutory livability standards are summed up in the state’s warranty of habitability. That statute dictates that the following amenities must be provided and maintained in all rental units in order for it to be considered legally habitable:
- Clean and safe common areas
- Safe electric wiring, outlets, and fixtures
- Proper plumbing
- Adequate sanitary facilities
- In-unit heating
- Proper ventilation
- In-unit air conditioning
- Reliable elevators (in multi-floor buildings)
- A garbage receptacle
- Consistent supply of hot and cold water
Nebraska tenants have the right to request repairs for any of these listed amenities when they fall out of safe or operational order. Upon submitting such a request in writing, a Nebraska landlord then has 14 days to respond and perform the repair. Otherwise, the affected tenant has the right to take alternative action against their landlord or begin the process of terminating their lease on the grounds of a landlord responsibility violation.
Tenant Responsibilities. During the course of tenancy, Nebraska tenants are required to keep their dwelling in a clean and safe condition. Moreover, they must remove garbage promptly and make all feasible repairs such that their factor poses a risk to other tenants or the physical proper itself. A Nebraska landlord is allowed to issue notices if this responsibility is not upheld. In such cases, tenants typically have 14 days to remedy their non-compliant behavior or face eviction.
Should a Nebraska tenant feel that their landlord has inadequately responded to their repair request, though, they can take “alternative actions” to compel their landlord to act. This includes withholding rent payments, so long as the tenant in question provides their landlord proper notice in advance of such a withholding beginning. Nebraska tenants do not appear to be able to perform a “repair and deduct,” however, unless their specific lease allows for it.
Evictions in Nebraska
Though tenants in Nebraska can be evicted for any reason written into their lease agreement, these are among the several legally justifiable cases for eviction that apply regardless of a lease’s provisions:
- Nonpayment of rent – After the completion of any applicable grace period, Nebraska tenants are required to promptly make all necessary rent payments. If they fail to do so, their landlord can issue them a 7-Day Notice to Pay. If the amount listed on that notice is not paid after those 7 days elapse, then the landlord may pursue formal eviction by filing a Petition for Restitution with a local court.
- Violation of lease terms – If a Nebraska landlord can supply proof that a tenant violated one or more terms of their lease, they are allowed to issue a 14-Day Notice to Cure to that tenant. That notice must include a description of the violation, as well as the terms set forth by the landlord to resolve the situation without committing to a formal eviction. If the terms of that notice are not met within 14 days, the tenant in question has 30 days to move out voluntarily or face a forced eviction.
- Illegal Acts – Nebraska does not define specifically what kinds of illegal acts justify eviction. Even so, it does detail that landlords in the state may issue a 5-Day Notice to Quit after documenting any tenant participating in illegal drug sales or a violent crime. This notice need not provide the tenant with an opportunity to resolve the issue due to the severity of their infraction against the safety of their fellow tenants.
Evictions without a lease. Nebraska tenants have the option to rent from a landlord on a month-to-month basis without entering into a lease agreement. Tenants who choose to do this are not subject to all of the same protections against unfair landlord actions. Even so, these tenants are entitled to 30 days of advance notice when their landlord intends to evict them without cause. With cause evictions follow the same standards for notice as are applied to leased tenants.
Illegal Evictions. Nebraska tenants who report a health or safety violation to a state or local regulatory authority are shielded from retaliatory evictions. This same level of protection from eviction is applied to tenants who join a tenant union. Also, Nebraska tenants cannot be eviction from their dwelling on discriminatory grounds, in accordance with the state’s fairing housing statutes.
Security Deposits in Nebraska
For the purposes of collecting, maintaining, and redistributing security deposits, these are the standards by which all landlords in Nebraska must abide:
- Standard Limit / Maximum Amount – Current Nebraska law dictates that landlords operating within the state cannot charge security deposits that are valued at greater than 1 month’s rent under the associated lease agreement. These same laws also require that pet deposits be valued at no greater than ¼ the value of a single month’s rent.
- Interest and Maintenance – Nebraska landlords are not currently legally obliged to maintain their collected security deposits in any particular manner. This includes a lack of requirement for the use of an interest-bearing account at an insured banking institution. As such, any interest that is allowed to incur while a security deposit is in a landlord’s possession is rightfully theirs unless an applicable lease agreement dictates otherwise.
- Time Limit for Return – Under regular circumstances, Nebraska landlords have 14 days to return any security deposit funds remaining in a tenant’s account after their lease ends. This funds return must also include an itemized list of all deductions made from that deposit over the course of its maintenance. This required return period may be extended if the tenant cannot be reached by mail in a timely manner, however.
- Penalty if Not Returned on Time – Landlords in Nebraska who wrongfully withhold a tenant’s security deposit can be held liable for paying up to twice the deposit’s value as a penalty. They may also be required to pay out the value of a single month’s rent if it is valued at a lower sum.
- Allowable Deductions – Under Nebraska law, landlords can only make justified security deposit deductions to cover a tenant’s unpaid rent or to offset the cost of damages that exceed regular wear and tear. However, Nebraska may allow landlords to make other deductions, so long as those deductions are provided for in the applicable lease agreement.
Lease Termination in Nebraska
Notice Requirements. In Nebraska, tenants who are signed onto a lease agreement with a fixed end date are not required to provide any notice prior to the natural conclusion of said lease. However, Nebraska tenants who are signed onto a periodic lease agreement are required to provide the following amounts of written notice when they intend to terminate their lease before the next leasing period:
- Week-to-Week lease – 7 days of advance notice
- Month-to-Month lease – 30 days of advance notice
Legally Breaking a Lease Early. When a Nebraska tenant chooses to break their lease early via an early termination clause, they are required to meet all of the terms set forth for facilitating that kind of severance. If such an option is infeasible or unavailable, though, a Nebraska tenant still has the choice to utilize one of the following legal justifications for breaking their lease early:
- Active Military Duty – Federal law allows service members who are relocating due to deployment or permanent change of station to terminate their lease as early as 30 days from the next rent period.
- Unit is Uninhabitable – Nebraska landlords are obliged to meet the requirements of the state’s warranty of habitability at all times. This includes providing repairs in a timely manner such that a tenant’s unit does not become unlivable or inhospitable. Failure to do this or provide any essential amenity may cause the dwelling in question to become statutorily uninhabitable. At that point, tenants are entitled to immediately terminate their lease on the grounds of their landlord’s failure to comply with established health and safety laws.
- Landlord Harassment – Nebraska landlords are required to give at least 1 day of notice in advance of their planned entry into a tenant’s unit. Failure to comply with this standard on a regular basis may constitute harassment on the landlord’s part. This, in turn, may allow an affected tenant to push for an immediate lease termination the grounds that their privacy had been invaded unfairly.
In most states, tenants who break off their lease early may become financially responsible for “buying out” the remaining value of their lease. Nebraska allows for the enforcement of such policies as well, but only in circumstances where a landlord is unable to reasonably re-rent the dwelling in a timely manner. This is a result of Nebraska laws which legally obligate landlords to mitigate financial damages whenever possible before passing that cost onto a tenant.
Rent Increases & Related Fees in Nebraska
Rent control & increases. Nebraska is one of the few remaining US states that neither allows for or effectively preempts local rent control or stabilization ordinances within its jurisdiction. This means that landlords in the state, in practice, can charge as much as they want for rent. However, on the flip side, local jurisdictions still have the right to institute rent control ordinances if they feel the local housing market has become too inflated.
As far as rent increase notices are concerned, Nebraska landlords only need to provide as much notice as the applicable lease agreement calls for. As such, in absence of such a provision, a Nebraska landlord may not need to provide any notice prior to activation of a rent increase.
Rent related fees. In most cases, Nebraska landlords are able to legally charge fees to their tenants, so long as those fees are described in full within an applicable lease agreement. This includes late rent payment fees, which can be set at any per diem or in total value under Nebraska law. However, Nebraska landlords can only charge so much for certain types of regular fees. This includes returned check fees, which can only incur a $10 fee (plus processing costs) per instance.
Housing Discrimination in Nebraska
Federal Protections. The Fair Housing Act protects tenants from being discriminated against due to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. However, the law does not apply to all housing, such as owner-occupied homes with 4 or fewer units or housing operated by religious organizations.
State Protections. At this time, Nebraska’s civil rights laws do not establish any protected classes in the field of housing. Apart from enforcing the provisions on the federal Fair Housing Act, Nebraska’s fair housing protections are currently at a bare minimum.
Discriminatory Acts & Penalties. The Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission is currently tasked with administering issues relating to discriminatory business practices within this state, including those that are precipitated by landlords against their current or prospective tenants. Though their enumerated list of prohibited acts is brief, these following examples lay the groundwork for establishing which business practices may be considered discriminatory when they target one or more protected classes of tenants:
- Publishing advertisements that imply a preference for or against certain types of tenants
- Refusing to rent, sell, or negotiate for housing
- Establishing differing terms, conditions, services, or facilities between tenants
- Falsely denying that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental
- Offering differing financing options or terms to equally qualified candidates
Nebraska citizens who feel that they have been discriminated against in their pursuit of housing may file a complaint with the state Equal Opportunity Commission in person, on the phone, or online. After filing a report, the Commission initiates an investigation process, after which a determination relating to the complaint veracity is made. The Commission does not indicate how punishments are administered, but is assumed that such options are left up to the tenant in question if they choose to sue for damages.
Additional Landlord Tenant Regulations in Nebraska
These following Nebraska landlord-tenant laws deserve your attention as well. In fact, you should read into them carefully because they are each the topic of regular dispute among landlords and tenants in this state:
Landlord Entry. Landlords in Nebraska are entitled to enter a tenant’s unit for a variety of reasons, including to make requested repairs and to show the dwelling to a prospective renter. However, these landlords may only enter an occupied unit if they received permission for the same 1 full day in advance. Without this advance notice, a Nebraska tenant has the right to deny entry to their landlord.
However, advance notice is not required for entry in emergency situations. That being said, a Nebraska landlord may not abuse their right to permission-less entry under these limited circumstances in order to invade a tenant’s privacy or harass them in any way.
Small Claims Court. Though limited in scope, some non-eviction landlord-tenant disputes can be settled through Nebraska’s small claims court system. However, cases filed in this venue can only be valued at up to $3,500 in total and must be filed with 5 years of a written contract’s termination (4 years for oral contracts).
Mandatory Disclosures. Nebraska landlords are currently only obligated to make two kinds of disclosures to tenants at the commencement of their tenancy. As in all states, these landlords are obliged to provide tenants living buildings built before 1978 with federally-mandate information about the hazards of lead-based paint. To adhere to Nebraska’s disclosure laws, though, these landlords must also provide the names and addresses of all individuals who are legally allowed to manage a tenant’s building within the terms of a new lease agreement.
Changing the Locks. Landlords in Nebraska are only allowed to change a tenant’s locks to precipitate a lockout in instances where the tenant in question has been formally evicted. Otherwise, changing a tenant’s locks without permission would constitute an illegal lockout for which the affected tenant may sue for damages.
Nebraska tenants may be able to change their own locks, but only if their lease agreement provides a process for doing so with permission. Otherwise, the tenant in question may be charged for damages and be forced to change the locks once again.
Nebraska Landlord-Tenant Resources
If you’re still looking to learn more about Nebraska’s landlord-tenant laws, then this is a great jumping off point:
Landlord and Tenant Handbook – Produced by Legal Aid of Nebraska, this handbook goes into greater detail about many common landlord-tenant laws, as well as their implications for both parties. This guide has been arranged based upon queries as well, so landlords and tenants alike can easily search through this guide and find answers to their special case questions.
Filing a Small Claims Case in Nebraska – This primer through the Nebraska Judicial Branch website is designed to educate landlords and tenants alike on the process of filing a small claims court case. This guide also covers issues such as defaults, counterclaims, and mediation, so it can be an important asset for individuals who are working to determine their legal strategy in response to a recently filed small claims case.
Landlord-Tenant Checklist – Nebraska landlords in particular can use this example checklist to ensure that they are providing all of the necessary amenities assigned to them under the state’s warranty of habitability. This checklist can also be useful when it comes to facilitating pre- and post-tenancy inspections.