Date of this Version
Examination of Eviction Filings in Lancaster County, Nebraska, 2019–2021
The study examined and analyzed eviction filings and proceedings in Nebraska, with a specific focus on Lancaster County—the home to the State’s capital, Lincoln. The primary objective of this study is to place eviction proceedings under a microscope to gain a better understanding of the volume of evictions in Nebraska, and whether the statutorily mandated processes are being followed. The study also attempts to capture the impact of certain external factors present during the period examined. Such factors include the COVID-19 pandemic and various eviction moratoria in place during 2020 and 2021, as well as the increased availability of legal representation for tenants facing eviction and the influx of funding for rental assistance programs. With a population of just under 300,000, Lincoln represents an average metropolitan city, with traits typical of cities both larger and smaller. Although there are a myriad of dissimilarities and variables—such as differing demographics, policies, and culture—it is projected that many of the findings herein are mirrored in eviction courts across America.
The study utilized data obtained from over 3,000 court hearings occurring in eviction actions filed between December 2019 and October 2021. The data was collected from public court records and through observations of hearings in open court. The analysis revealed that a significant number of the eviction actions were conducted unlawfully in some manner, and that fewer than ten percent of the eviction filings satisfied the minimum statutory requirements. Also apparent throughout the study was the impact of the availability of legal representation for tenants. When tenants had legal representation, the rate of unlawful evictions decreased significantly, as did the rate of evictions overall. The data further indicated that the increased presence of legal representation for tenants correlated with a decrease in frequency of law enforcement involvement in the eviction process. The study also revealed that eviction actions that did not comply with statutory requirements were nonetheless permitted to proceed to trial, and often resulted in the tenant being evicted from the home.