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A new landlord acquires your home, what are your rights as a tenant in Nebraska?

Omaha tenants were given notices to vacate soon after their homes were sold
Posted at 7:01 PM, Apr 29, 2022

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Melvin Mancillia is upfront about the eviction on his record. Without it, it's tough to find a place these days. With it, it was harder.

Weeks into a search he'd been rejected, or ignored altogether, by each apartment he reached out to, he said. Two apartments told him he was good to apply despite the eviction, charged him an application fee, then denied it, he said.

Plus, Mancillia said he must find a place with accommodations for his son, 6-year-old Josiah. His son is in a wheelchair and nonverbal. Born with hydrocephalus — a condition where a brain contains excessive fluid — Josiah has relatively easy access to their current home through the garage.

In late March, Mancilla’s landlord sold the home that Mancilla had lived in for just six months.

His home is one of five sold to a company that flips homes for a profit. 3 News Now spoke to three of the tenants, all of whom were given notes to leave just a day or two after the sale was closed.

Their previous landlord said they had a verbal agreement with the new owner for all but one of the homes, in which the residents would be allowed to stay.

It's a charge the new owner denies. 3 News Now has chosen not to identify the individual or company involved because the investigative reporting team was unable to independently verify the claims.

“I got settled in, kind of had high hopes on … building my family here,” Mancilla said. “Now, that’s basically all gone in the wind.”

The CEO of the company the homes were sold to told 3 News Now they rent properties out only sparingly. They buy homes, fix them up, and flip them for a profit, they said. If you’ve received an unsolicited text message offering to buy your Omaha home, it could have been from them, they said.

“It sucks we have to leave in this way,” said Christina Johnson, who is raising a child with Jacob Johnson in one of the other homes that was sold. “I wanted to leave on our terms. When we were ready. When we found our first home that we can buy.”

The Johnsons have lived in the home for more than five years.

“Finding another place on such short notice, when we were already budgeted for $800 a month," said Christina Johnson, "it’s extremely difficult.”

The Johnsons ended up finding a new place to live. But they’ll now pay $500 more in rent each month, which puts them on a tight budget, Christina Johnson said.

Nebraska law requires that any existing leases be recognized by the new owner of a property, said Joe Garcia, Director of the Fairy Housing Center of Nebraska and Iowa, part of Family Housing Advisory Services.

The new owner couldn't have asked the tenants to leave immediately. The tenants were on a month-to-month basis with their former landlord.

At least 30 days of notice must be given. If there's a lease, any existing term must run out.

The tenants of three of the now-sold homes have been asked to be out of their homes by this Sunday, relayed via letters sent in late March.

"So that relieved a lot of stress,” Mancilla said, referencing the CEO's claim that they would continue to allow Mancilla to rent the home. “I could just focus on school and Josiah and now that that's not happening, I feel like my brain's going everywhere."

Jacob Johnson said the CEO of the house flipping company looked him in the eyes and shook his hand, and said “You guys are going to stay. We’re going to get you set up with a new lease.’”

One thing isn't in dispute. There was no such agreement to keep the tenants in place in writing: no long-term lease or stated in the purchase agreement.

With help from friends and family, Mancilla was able to collect the nearly $3,000 necessary to put down a security deposit with an eviction on his record. His rent will increase by $200 each month. He said it's been a lot. He recently lost his mom, who was able to provide help and support.

"As a single father, and not having the support I had with my mom ... I feel like a failure to my son," Mancilla said. "He's my main focus. To make sure I take care of him and he's OK ... And to think now that we're in this situation. It weighs heavy on my heart."

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