New bill pushes to give tenants more rights in Nebraska

Nebraska lawmakers have introduced a bill to seal eviction records.
Published: Jan. 16, 2023 at 5:18 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - It’s called the Residential Tenant Clean Slate Act and it’s designed to give renters more rights so their past does not drag them down.

LB-175 stipulates that if you meet certain requirements, the state of Nebraska would seal your records when it comes to previous evictions. State Sen. George Dungan, a former public defender, introduced it.

In Omaha, Attorney Dave Pantos volunteers in eviction court at least once a week. He represents renters in courtroom 20 of the Omaha/Douglas Civic Center.

Pantos says the current look-back period of a tenant’s history is seven years. This bill would reduce that to three years.

“You can have a situation where a landlord files for an eviction, that is part of a public court record and so a future landlord does a quick search of an applicant’s record, they see the filing and they move on to the next person,” Pantos said. “They say I’m not going to rent to that person, somebody filed against them even if it was dismissed.”

Pantos, who often posts on social media how he did each week in eviction court, says not all landlords are bad. However, he believes the COVID-19 pandemic changed the landlord and tenant dynamic with so many people losing their income or getting laid off by no fault of their own.

He wants to see new protections for people so they don’t get kicked out.

“If folks lose income because of illness, a lot of folks don’t have protections like paid sick leave, they shouldn’t be forced not to have a place to stay,” Pantos said.

Bill sponsor Dungan says past evictions should not haunt tenants and keep them in a cycle of hardship.

He’s hoping the bill gets a fair shot at a debate and vote in the Unicameral, not tied up in committee.