Renters scramble as Ricketts lifts halt on evictions

Photo: Dennis Capati / MGN
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - It’s a move that’s left renters across Nebraska scrambling; Wednesday Governor Pete Ricketts doubled down on his decision to not extend the halt on eviction hearings past May.

“It’s pretty scary because while it was suspended all these accrued charges came with it,” said Shelby Nash, who’s family rents in Omaha.“After the 31st we’re expected to pay a really large sum of money that we can’t pay, so chances are we’re probably going to get evicted.”

In March the Governor’s laid down an executive order protecting tenants financially impacted by the pandemic from being evicted. But that’s all set to change come June 1 when the order comes to an end.

“A landlord can tell a tenant, pay everything - April, May. March - and they are gone if they can’t pay that within seven days,” said Scott Mertz, Legal Aid of Nebraska.

Wednesday Governor Ricketts repeated his reasons for not extending the halt on pandemic-related evictions,

“We felt it was important people not get too far behind on their rent, so people would be able to catch up,” said the governor. “And with the pandemic employment assistance of $600 a month that was going to be sufficient for people to pay their rents.”

But the Nash’s said that’s not working for everyone; they’re both back to work now, and the help they did get didn’t go far enough.

“All the late charges from just not paying one month’s rent, April, has me in a position where I just can’t pay it,” said Nash.

Legal Aid of Nebraska said it would have made sense to extend the halt on evictions until the end of July. That’s when the federal moratorium protecting some tenants runs out.

“If you’ve got a good landlord who’s willing to work with you to get you caught up, your probably fine,” said Mertz. “Not everyone is in that situation though.”

Something the Nash’s said they are familiar with; they’ve already started looking for a new home.

“I'm just trying to find a different place, someone that won’t have all these hidden charges that they don’t tell you about,” said Nash. “And just work with me.”

Legal Aid of Nebraska expected the number of eviction cases to take a big jump in June. In Omaha, the courts already have 150 cases waiting to be heard once the governor’s order comes to an end.