A flowchart of how eviction works in nebraska

Tenant Assistance Project in Nebraska

Some counties in Nebraska have started a comprehensive court-based program to connect tenants with attorneys, resources, eviction defense strategies, and procedural coaching. This can stop immediate evictions.

Nebraska legal aid, law schools, and bar associations have created a new effort to prevent evictions, the Tenant Assistance Project. It started in Lancaster County, originally as a law school project and then as a wider effort by grassroots organizations. It now has spread to Douglas County, Nebraska.

The basics of the program:

  • Someone is in the court, to greet litigants, identify tenants at risk of eviction, and do intake for free legal assistance
  • Connect them with volunteer lawyers and law students to help them on the day of the eviction hearing.
  • Give them prepared packets, worksheets, and materials that can help them be ready for their hearing with information, defenses, and other key help. These materials are drawn from court pleadings, to find possible issues with service, timing, ownership, and defenses to the action.
  • In some areas, doing proactive outreach (before the hearing date) to encourage them to attend their eviction hearing
  • Connect them with a resource navigator, who can help them with housing and rental assistance

The law school’s Tenant Assistance Project information:

The Tenant Assistance Project officially launched in April 2020, as the state’s first moratorium on eviction was set to expire. 

Prior to the Tenant Assistance Project, tenants would arrive at court unrepresented and often agree to an immediate eviction because they couldn’t navigate the legal process themselves. Now, when tenants arrive for their hearing, they are greeted by a team of volunteers ready to help, and in nearly 98% of the cases, the tenant is able to avoid immediate eviction.

More than half of the Tenant Assistance Project volunteers in Lancaster County are law students. They create eviction defense packets, notify tenants of hearings and resources available, and represent tenants during eviction hearings. 

Since its inception, the program has helped keep more than 2,000 families in their homes and connect tenants to resources, including over $20 million in federal aid or rental assistance. 

Results and Impact

Lowering Default Rates, Increasing Appearance: The Tenant Assistance Project reports that they are increasing appearance rates dramatically, particularly when they have early outreach for tenants facing eviction.

Delaying and Reducing Forced Moves: They are also seeing reductions in immediate evictions. Even if there is a stipulated agreement that tenants will be moving in the near future, they have more time to stay and make a plan for where to go next.

See more at this Lincoln, Nebraska government site about the program.

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