Eviction filings in Lancaster County Court double in six months

Eviction hearings are being filed in Lancaster County Court at double the rate that they were six months ago. Some landlords are making changes.
Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 6:42 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Reid Gahan, who rents out the other half of the duplex he owns, doesn’t want his tenant to ever face homelessness.

“The mom, she has two boys. One is in high school, one in middle school,” Gahan said. “I want to see them graduate high school and homelessness impacts your ability to graduate high school and just be successful in life.”

His tenant, is currently receiving a voucher to pay her rent. Gahan said this has allowed her to go back to school. But when there was a question about whether those vouchers would continue, Gahan wanted to provide the same security. The solution came in the form of a flexible, income-based lease agreement.

“We decided to tie it to be 25% of the last months income, with upper and lower limits,” Gahan said. “It’s at 25% because 30% is considered a cost burden for housing.”

Gahan didn’t end up having to use the lease because vouchers were continuing, but the fact that he worked to create it, is a sign of positive change in the community at a time when landlords are filing more evictions than ever before in the Lancaster County Court.

In November, 210 eviction hearings were filed with the Lancaster County Court. This is a 31% increase from the pre-pandemic average of 160 eviction hearings filed a month. It’s 106% higher than the number of evictions filed in June, while the eviction moratorium was still in place.

“It’s clear people are still struggling because of the pandemic and everything going on in the community,” Mindy Rush Chipman, the director of the Commission on Human Rights said.

Because of Rush Chipman, and the Tenant’s Assistance Project, a team of volunteer attorneys which represent tenants in court, 98% of those filings don’t end in evictions.

“Landlords are starting to get a little freaked out because the power dynamic has shifted, but that doesn’t mean that it’s all bad. We’re still working for the greater good. We’re working to get landlords their rental payments and keep families housed,” Chipman said.

They’re also seeing more landlords and landlords attorneys work with tenants to prevent evictions before they even get to court by reaching out for help early and working with tenants before there’s a problem.

Gahan is one example, but he recognizes he’s lucky in that he doesn’t rely on income from rent to make his own ends meet.

“If there’s anything I can do to prevent homelessness, I’m willing to give up a couple hundred dollars to do that,” Gahan said. “But I know it’s complicated when landlords need that money for their own livelihoods.”

Both Gahan, and Rush Chipman hope more landlords make an effort.

“Give us some grace,” Rush Chipman said. “So many people, especially at the Commission on Human Rights, are working to process rental assistance applications and get landlords payments.”

The City of Lincoln still has rental assistance available. So far they’ve paid out more than $17 million to nearly 4,000 households. They still have $6 million left. Tenants and landlords can apply for that assistance here.

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