LANDLORD & TENANT LAW
Landlord & Tenant Law is, certainly, a subject matter within the broader area of “real estate” - a subject spoken about in this law firm’s practice areas. However, because the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants is such a prevalent matter of interest, we treat it separately:
The respective rights and responsibilities of landlords on the one hand and tenants on the other hand, are well defined in Nebraska Law, commencing with Nebraska’s Uniform Residential Landlord & Tenant Act (NURLTA) from 1974. Before this law was written, the rights and responsibilities of each party were found in a collection of common law cases. The 1974 law systematized the obligations of each party into a well thought out collection of subject matter theories, in which nearly every question that may occur has an answer. A few areas of this law which are most often asked about are summarized below.
2. Selected Subjects:
a. The format of Nebraska’s Act (NURLTA) applies to residential real estate. There are situations in which this statutory regime does not apply, such as: Institutional residences. Occupancy associated with a contract of sale. Occupancy relative to an employee of the landlord. Occupancy on premises used primarily for agricultural purposes. And, others.
b. The termination of the landlord/tenant relationship must be understood so that it might be done without conflict between the parties. The manner in which termination takes place relates to the term of the agreement. Example: Most common is a month to month tenancy in which the tenant pays rent in advance of the month of occupancy. In this situation both the landlord and the tenant, if to terminate this relationship, must give the other written notice to that effect at least 30 days prior to the periodic rental date. In other words, the notice when given is effective 30 days later - the time measured from the date on which the agreement revolves which is, usually, the first of the month. Other term agreements have different time lines.
c. If the tenant falls in default of the obligation to pay rent, there is a required notice given by the landlord to the tenant before the landlord can proceed with an eviction lawsuit. This is referred to as the “Notice to Quit”. This notice allows the tenant an opportunity to catch up, and the hope that there would be communication between the tenant and landlord to reach an understanding. In the event the tenant does not remedy the default, then the landlord may proceed to file an eviction. In the court case, the court will first determine the right of the landlord to repossess the premises and for this the landlord can get a court hearing in a short period of time. At the hearing, the landlord might be restored to possession exclusive of the tenant. If the tenant fails to move out, a “Writ of Restitution” will be issued by the court. The remaining, important, issue of the non-paid rent is a subject left for a later court hearing.
d. Security deposits taken by the landlord are a major protection for unpaid rent or damages. This deposit may not be excessive, as it is limited to the amount which is one month’s periodic rent. Upon termination of the tenancy, this held deposit may be applied to the payment of rent and/or damages which the landlord has suffered if by reason of the tenant’s non-compliance with the rental agreement.
e. The NURLTA brought into the law a number of different requirements that landlords must follow, such as: A rental agreement may not be unconscionable, in other words it must be usual and typical in the circumstances, and not one which severely penalizes the tenant. The rental agreement may not require the tenant to waive his or her rights under the NURLTA. The landlord must make necessary repairs so that the leased premises are fit and habitable. The landlord must provide good and safe electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, and other conveniences. Conversely, the landlord may adopt reasonable rules and regulations, if they are related to the purpose for which they are adopted and will treat the tenant in a fair manner.
f. The tenant likewise must comply with certain statutory obligations to include: The tenant may not unreasonably withhold consent to the landlord to enter the dwelling unit in order to inspect or to make necessary repairs. The tenant agrees to use the premises only as a dwelling unit. The tenant agrees to pay the required rent, promptly. The tenant agrees to keep the leased premises clean and safe. Upon termination, the premises will be turned over to the landlord in a clean condition, excepting only ordinary wear and tear. And, during the term of the agreement, the tenant shall not deliberately or negligently destroy or damage the premises. With regard to a multiple dwelling unit, the tenant agrees to conduct himself in a manner which will not disturb the neighbors.
g. In conclusion, it is correct to state that the NURLTA seeks to establish a workable and straightforward relationship between the landlord and tenant. In essence, this law establishes legal positions of the nature that each would expect to be treated as if the roles were reversed. After more than 30 years of experience under this system, the law is generally well understood and respected. However, conflicts will erupt and when they do qualified counsel is necessary to establish order. This law firm looks forward to providing that service.
h. In the future, the landlord/tenant relationship will undergo additional pressures from outside sources, such as: The developing marketplace which dictates the kind of rental premises which are available. Regulations, for example those which relate to governmental housing. Personal choice and social value issues that might be addressed by fair housing laws to prohibit discrimination. Environmental concerns, such as the Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 which requires disclosure of lead paint hazards. The law is evolving.