Tenant Rights
(The Short Version)

  • Before Moving In
  • The Detailed Checklist (at end of “Tenants Rights” in the Long Form)
  • After Moving In: Rights & Responsibilities of Tenants
  • On Moving Out: Be sure to. . . .
  • See also attached Detailed Checklist in the Long Form)

Before Moving In

1. You must get the name, address and phone number of your landlord. If the person you are dealing with is a manager, make sure you know her/his name, address and phone number and find out who owns the property. Get their name and phone number as well.

2. You have a right to see the actual apartment you are going to rent and to have what is called “a walk through”.

Background: The Walk Through
3. Do a walk-through BEFORE YOU SIGN A LEASE. A good manager will agree to this. You may have to leave a deposit to hold the apartment, but make sure it is refundable. Get that in writing. If this is not possible, or if the manager doesn’t agree, you have 72 hours after move-in to do a walk-through with the manager/landlord, not with a friend of the landlord or odd “assistant” manager.

4. Sometimes renters are asked to pay for heat. Get precise information on that: What is expected cost, is it shared with other apartments?

5. Be clear on: What the rent is; when it is due; and how to pay.

Background – The Deposit
You will probably be required to pay a security or damage deposit along with the first month’s rent. THE DEPOSIT IS NOT RENT. If you have a written lease (ask for it but it’s not the law), it will generally state what your deposit will cover. If you don’t understand the terms, ask the manager to explain them clearly. The NE landlord/tenant law states that a landlord cannot charge more than one month of rent for a security deposit unless there is a pet. Ask the manager outright – “How much is usually deducted from the deposit upon move-out?” Surprisingly, they will usually tell you. If they do, have them write the amount on the lease and initial it.

NOTE: Take pictures of the apartment before you sign the lease,especially of areas about which you have expressed concerns. At move in, especially take photos – even close ups – of carpets, to identify any carpet stains that come with the rental property.

6. Tenants are not officially required to do any tasks that normally fall to landlords.

If you are asked to do any tasks normally done by the landlord (for example shoveling, mowing, carting trash – such tasks should have been spelled out in the apartment advertisement), do not agree to do them unless there is a commensurate reduction in rent. Or unless you just don’t mind.

7.  Be assertive (not aggressive) in asking questions.

After Moving In

As soon as you move in: Take pictures of the apartment, dated the day you move in, but no later than the first week. Especially take pictures of areas of concern. If these concerns are serious, report them to the landlord.

Rights & Responsibilities of Tenants From the Nebraska Statute:

1. A tenant must usually perform certain responsibilities under Nebraska landlord/tenant laws: Keep apartment safe and clean; use appliances correctly; allow peaceful living of others, etc. See the Long Form for more specifics.  Landlords must perform basic tasks: provide reliable heat, water, and safe electricity; clear walkways of snow, leaves, and other obstructions; fix leaks in ceiling, floors, toilets, and utilities completely and to your satisfaction; deal thoroughly with sight or evidence of vermin and/or insects; etc.

  1. You must pay your rent in full on dates/days stated in the lease.

You must notify a landlord when you have a complaint or complaints. Landlords have a legal timeframe in which to address complaints. Fourteen days is standard. If complaints are not addressed to your satisfaction, you are by best-practice law entitled after fourteen days to notify the landlord in writing you will be withholding rent, the reasons why, and then withhold rent (best by escrow account) until the concerns are dealt with

3. Pets are an issue and if you are allowed to have one, there is usually an extra security deposit required in addition to the standard one. A Hard-News Point of View: You should almost always expect to replace carpet when you have a pet. All pets urinate on carpet, regardless of how well-trained they are or how closely you supervise them. When a pet pees on the carpet, even once, the entire carpet must be replaced.

4. Important: Meet other tenants, especially those living near you. Consider working together on projects, especially if you and others have concerns with apartments and/or landlord.

5. Enjoy your stay.

On Moving Out

1. To protect your deposit, give your landlord two weeks notice before your move-out day. Then call 3-5 days before your move-out to schedule your inspection.

2. Prior to inspection: * Take pictures of the apartment, especially of areas about which you have expressed concerns. * Ask if the landlord has their check-out list. If so, follow it carefully. * Be sure you are all paid up on rent and arranged utilities. * Clean the apartment very well: See the Long Form for important specifics.

3. The Move-Out Inspection

  • If possible, be sure the inspector is a fully-authorized representative of the landlord. Get their name and number and give your new address so your landlord knows where to send your deposit refund.
  • Whatever the landlord evaluation, especially “all’s well”, get it in writing right then and ask for a written copy within a day.
  • Usually, leave ALL utilities on until your move-out inspection has been completed.
  • Make landlord aware of any damage or issues inside the rental unit.
  • Be sure to reach an understanding with the landlord when keys must be returned, such as right after the inspection, the end of the day after the inspection, or, rarely, the next day.
  • Unless the landlord has alerted you to costs to be deducted from your security deposit, you are entitled to the entire deposit no more than 21 days after turning in your keys.

From the Redundancy Department of Redundancy:
Before the inspection, take pictures of the apartment, especially of areas about which you have expressed concerns.
Security deposits, Evictions, legal and illegal: See the Long Form.