FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Chief of Development and External Relations
Managing Attorney, Scottsbluff Office
Legal Aid of Nebraska Will Continue to Fight for Property Rights of Low-Income Homeowners Facing Tax Sales, Despite Today’s Nebraska Supreme Court Ruling
(Lincoln, NE) Today, the Nebraska Supreme Court issued its opinion in Continental Resources v. Kevin L. Fair finding in favor of Continental Resources. Legal Aid of Nebraska Scottsbluff Managing Attorney, Michael Meister, argued the case on behalf of Kevin Fair and his now-deceased wife Terry Fair.
“We are very disappointed in today’s ruling, not just for Mr. Fair, but also for the thousands of low-income, elderly, and disabled Nebraskans that continue to lose their homes due to a lack of basic notice. Taking away someone’s biggest asset, and forcing them to move quickly after years of homeownership is heartbreaking and wrong,” said Mike Meister, Managing Attorney of Legal Aid’s Scottsbluff office, who argued this before the Nebraska Supreme Court in September 2021.
Under Nebraska law, counties can sell property tax liens to private parties when homeowners fall behind on their real estate taxes. Regardless of how much equity a property owner has in his or her property — or how small the amount the owner owes a county — state law provides that the county can take and transfer the property and all of the equity in it to a private purchaser. By paying the tax lien and any subsequent taxes, these private parties can take ownership of the property after three years.
In order to get his home back, Kevin Fair would have had to pay $5,268 to the county, not the $588.21 he initially owed, which includes interest, attorney fees, and other expenses allegedly incurred due to the non-payment of the original tax delinquency. Due to the Court’s ruling today, Fair will lose his home of 27 years and the entire $50,000 equity, to the private third party, Continental Resources.
Legal Aid will continue to defend the property rights of low-income and vulnerable Nebraskans. Counsel for Mr. Fair is now reviewing the decision and determining all possible remaining options, including seeking additional review by the United States Supreme Court.
Legal Aid also argued a similar case before the Nebraska Supreme Court, Nieveen v. Tax 106, once again demanding protection of our clients’ property rights. This case addresses the application tax sale laws, specifically the rights of those with mental illness to redeem their tax sales and keep their homes. The decision is still pending.
If you are a homeowner and are in need of assistance, a newly established Homeowners Assistance Fund administered by NIFA is available to help. This fund will help pay delinquent real estate property taxes to avoid further legal or tax foreclosure activity. There is up to $30,000 per household available, but the funding is limited. Applications are at: https://haf.nifa.org/
About Legal Aid of Nebraska:
Legal Aid of Nebraska was established in 1963 and is the largest statewide non-profit civil legal aid provider in Nebraska, providing free high-quality services to low-income Nebraskans in all 93 counties. Legal Aid’s mission is “to promote justice, dignity, hope and self-sufficiency through quality civil legal aid for those who have nowhere else to turn.” Legal Aid’s Scottsbluff office is located at 1423 1st Ave, Scottsbluff, NE.
Download the full release here.