Law Locks Grieving Daughter Out Of Late Father's Apartment

A grieving daughter is furious because she can't get into her late father's Omaha apartment to collect his belongings. A state law is what's keeping her out.

Navy veteran Art Busch treasured independence so he didn't have daughter Vickie on his apartment lease at 68th and Spring streets, though she had a key. “The locks have been changed," says Vickie.

When Art died on July 9th, apartment management escorted Vickie inside to collect items for the funeral, but she couldn’t take anything else for 30 days. “Then you have to relive it every day before you can get closure and get everything. It’s not right.”

NP Dodge staff sympathizes, but state law prohibits anyone without a court order to collect a deceased tenant’s belongings for a month. “Once those 30 days are up they can sign a small estate affidavit that would allow those family members to come and collect all personal belongings from the apartment at that time,” says NP Dodge’s Kristy Lamb. That keeps landlords from being drawn into a family feud, but Vickie says only she is in her father's will.

Vickie says she didn't know management said she could have gotten in early by going to court and asking a judge to appoint her personal representative for her deceased father. Her attorney says that could cost from $300 to $500 in legal fees.

Caught between emotion and liability, property managers want the law changed. “The simple change would be for the law to allow property management companies to designate an individual who can go in and get property once a tenant passes away,” says NP Dodge’s Nate Dodge.

Until the landlord opens the door to her father’s belongings, Vickie says she can't have closure. “It lingers on and on for no good reason.”

NP Dodge has about a dozen of these situations a year. Lawmakers know about it. State Sen. Burke Harr tells Fact Finders he'll introduce a bill to include a personal representative on all leases.

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