This past year, the Nebraska State Legislature approved an update to the Nebraska Landlord Tenant Act, which affected Neb. Rev. Stat. § 76-1431. This section has historically addressed a landlord’s rights when the tenant is noncompliant with the obligations under the lease agreement or fails to pay rent. The recent changes to this section provide the landlord with a specific remedy for when the tenant, occupant, household member, or guest are engaging in criminal or illegal activity on the leased premises.
In the past, criminal activity by the tenant was treated as a general breach of a lease agreement. Under the Nebraska Landlord Tenant Act, for a general breach the landlord is required to provide the tenant with a written thirty day notice of termination of the lease agreement, and the tenant is provided fourteen days to remedy the breach to prevent the landlord from terminating the lease agreement.
According to the updated language to Neb. Rev. Stat. §76-1431, the landlord may file suit to recover possession of the leased premises after five days’ written notice if the tenant, occupant, member of the tenant’s household, guest, or other person who is under the tenant’s control or who is present upon the premises with the tenant’s consent, does any of the following:
- Engages in any violent criminal activity on the premises;
- Engages in the illegal sale of any controlled substance on the premises; or
- Engages in any other activity that threatens the health or safety of other tenants, the landlord, or the landlord’s employees or agents.
Additionally, the statute does not allow the tenant the opportunity to remedy the breach in order to avoid termination of the lease agreement. The tenant, however, is provided an opportunity to avoid termination of the lease agreement under this statutorily provided remedy if someone other than the tenant conduct falls under 1, 2, or 3 listed above, and the tenant does at least one of the follow:
- Seeks a protective order, restraining order, or other similar relief which would apply to the person conducting such activity; or
- The tenant reports such activity to a law enforcement agency in an effort to initiate a criminal action against the person conducting the activity.
As this statute moves from paper to practice, the question becomes when can a landlord move forward with filing suit to terminate the lease agreement? Interestingly, the statute, on its face, does not require a criminal conviction, a criminal charge, or even, at the least, a criminal investigation prior to the landlord moving to terminate the lease agreement under. Rather, it appears as though a landlord’s suspicion of criminal activity or reports of criminal activity to the landlord would be sufficient to move forward with providing the tenant a five day written notice to terminate under this new language. Additionally, there could also be concerns raised when this new statutory language is put into practice and how it relates to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s interpretations of the Federal Fair Housing Act and its prohibition of discrimination based on a person’s criminal history. See blog posted on Fair Housing Act: Declining Rental Properties Based on Criminal History, which can be found HERE.
Once again, we invite you to contact us regarding additional questions you may have about your landlord/tenant needs.
 Neb. Rev. Stat. § 76-1431(1)
 Neb. Rev. Stat. § 76-1431(4)
 Neb. Rev. Stat. § 76-1431(5)