Eviction or Breaking Your Lease
If you are having thoughts about breaking your lease, or you are about to be evicted, there are some things you should know. Here is some basic information about eviction and lease breaking:
What if I sign the lease and decide I do not want to live there?
Breaking a lease can lead to some serious problems. You can get fined a LARGE amount of money for choosing to break your lease without “just cause”. Some examples of “just cause” reasons would be if your apartment/home is unlivable (mold, cockroach infestation, building code violations, etc.), you are a victim of domestic violence, or if the landlord has been harassing you/making you uncomfortable. You will need to show evidence or reasons why you have “just cause” though! Picture or written proof can be considered evidence. If you do not have “just cause” then you may have another option: subleasing. This means you will find someone to move in and take your spot in the home/apartment. You will have to check the lease to see if subletting is allowed. You will need to notify your landlords if you plan to have someone sublease for you.
Can my landlord just lock me out of my apartment/home?
No, your landlord cannot lock you out or anything of the sort. When you are evicted, the landlord must get a court judgment before he/she can do anything. You must be given a written notice of “terminating your tenancy” before action is taken against you. This means they must tell you that they have decided you are no longer able to live there.
Once I get the notice, does that mean I am automatically evicted?
Not necessarily! You should carefully read the notice and see why you are being notified in the first place. Calling or arranging a meeting with the landlord is a good idea, too. That gives you both an opportunity to explain your side and see if you can come to an agreement. Some common reasons could be late rent, unauthorized pets, etc. You and your landlord can discuss ways to fix the problem to avoid eviction.
What happens if my landlord and I do not come to an agreement?
If you and your landlord are unable to cooperate with one another, the landlord can file a lawsuit to evict you. This is a process the landlord must go through. They must have evidence to show that you are doing something wrong. This would fall under “notification with cause” meaning the landlord must show cause or reason to ask you to leave. There are three types of notices “with cause” you might receive. They are:
- Pay Rent or Quit Notices—these are commonly given to you when you do not pay the rent. If you do not pay the rent for a considerable amount of time, the landlord does not have to give you much time to move out after the notice. Usually you get 3-5 days to either pay the rent or “quit” (move out).
- Cure or Quit Notices—you will usually get these when you break one of the rules of the lease. Examples are: having a pet that is not allowed, noise complaints, parties, etc. They will typically give you a certain amount of time to “cure” or fix the problem. They might charge you a fee (especially with parties—whenever the police are called for a noise complaint/underage parties, the landlord will typically fine you a large amount of money).
- Unconditional Quit Notices—these are the harshest of notices. These notices give you no opportunity to fix the problem or pay the rent. The circumstances are usually severe if you get an unconditional quit notice. In most states, these notices are only allowed when:
- You broke a certain rule over and over again (no pets, parties, noise complaints, etc.)
- You have been late on rent many times.
- You have seriously damaged the property
- You have been caught with serious illegal activity (such as drug dealing on the property).
Unfortunately, there is such thing as notice without cause. A notice without cause means that even if you did nothing wrong, the landlord can ask you to leave “without cause”. You will typically be given a 30 or 60-day notice to vacate when the landlord does not have a reason. However, they cannot do this if you have something called a fixed term lease. A fixed term lease means that you are renting for a specific amount of time (6 months, 1 year, 15 months, etc.), and it is written that way in the lease agreement. A fixed term lease is usually the kind of lease you will have.
Where do I go after I get evicted?
The best option is to find somewhere to go for at least a few nights. You can ask family and friends if they mind you staying with them for a few days until you have other arrangements. If you are being evicted, are under 24 years of age, and have a touch with the Juvenile Justice System on the law violation side, contact the Juvenile Reentry Project! We may be able to assist(and potentially represent you)through this process! If you do not believe you would qualify for the Juvenile Reentry project,you can still apply for help online at,http://www.legalaidofnebraska.org/, over the phone at, 1-877-250-2016, or at our Access to Justice walk-in clinics located at our Omaha and Lincoln offices. Our Lincoln hours are: Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 9:00-11:30 am. Our Omaha hours are: Monday – Wednesday, 1:00 – 4:00 pm.
This project was supported by Grant No. 2017-CZ-BX-0021 awarded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.