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Loophole in eviction moratorium lets landlords evict tenants

Attorney says eviction filings have recently increased throughout the pandemic
Posted at 6:58 AM, Mar 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-03 10:19:33-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — While the federal government has continued to put a ban on evictions during the pandemic, there’s at least one loophole that is allowing landlords to evict some of their tenants, and it’s happening right here in Omaha.

Nicole Williams and her family were evicted just days ago after a judge ruled against her case.

“I got two kids that I’m worried about,” Williams said. “They live with my sister right now. We have to be apart and he took total advantage of that.”

Their landlord, Bill Stanek, used a loophole in the CDC’s eviction moratorium, something that was supposed to protect Williams and her boyfriend, Daniel Christian, after they lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

“We thought we were good and then we got another letter to appear in court,” Christian said. “He wasn’t asking for restitution and saying we were behind, he just terminated our lease and evicted us.”

Instead of evicting a tenant because of unpaid rent—which is not allowed—Stanek is removing renters because their leases were up and he decided not to renew them.

“It was sad to see him do that to people,” Williams said. “He got away with it and there was nobody to help.”

This exact scenario didn’t just happen to Williams and her family.

According to Scott Mertz, an attorney at Legal Aid of Nebraska, Stanek did the same thing—on the same day—to four of his tenants.

“It’s very common,” Mertz said. “We know this because of the numbers. There was a big dip in the evictions filed at the start of the CDC’s memorandum back in September and then in October, but the number of filings have crept up and up every successive month as more and more individuals are being sued for reasons not related to non-payment of rent.”

Mertz says although this loophole is legal. He’s found there is a correlation between those that still owe rent and those that are getting eviction notices.

“A lot of people are currently employed we find when coming to us, but they did have some kind of interruption into their income earlier on,” Mertz said. “They’ve just been playing catch up and may have been behind and that’s a very common experience many are having.”

Williams and Christian fall into that category. They are trying to save money to pay late bills after being in and out of work throughout the pandemic.

“Nothing has changed,” William said. “He (Stanek) just get to go around the memorandum and put us all out. I just did all this stuff from September to now with housing and I still don’t have nowhere to stay.”

Williams and Christian say their story is unfortunately not that uncommon, and just another example of how the system is stack against those most vulnerable.

KMTV reached out to their landlord, Bill Stanek, but he declined to comment on the situation.