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A south Lincoln couple faces eviction Monday morning at a court hearing over nearly $2,200 in late rent dating back to January.

And a case filed Friday against a man who hasn't paid his $495 in March rent puts him up for eviction at a hearing on the last day of the month.

These eviction cases and others in Lancaster County remain on schedule despite a pandemic that's upended everyday life in Nebraska.

“We're taking extreme measures (with social distancing) with schools and public gatherings, and meanwhile evictions are proceeding as usual,” said James Goddard of Nebraska Appleseed. "That is baffling."

Late last week, organizations like Nebraska Appleseed, renter advocates and other community groups concerned for low-income residents and those in Lincoln facing unemployment because of pandemic precautions called on city and state officials to temporarily block people from being thrown out of their homes.

The Trump administration has temporarily stopped evictions and foreclosures for homeowners with certain federally insured mortgages. And a host of states like Kansas and Texas and cities like Seattle and New Orleans have begun implementing these moratoriums to renters more broadly.

In Lincoln and statewide, the proposal is under consideration.

"We are actively considering this option in consultation with our residents, property owners and the City Attorney," Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird said in a statement Sunday.

Gaylor Baird received a letter from Appleseed and 16 other organizations Friday asking her to use her powers to protect the city under the recent pandemic-related emergency declaration to implement a temporary eviction moratorium.

As city staff continue to seek input on such a moratorium, the mayor urges anyone in immediate need of housing assistance to go to the Resident Resources information available at covid19.lincoln.ne.gov.

"We want everyone in Lincoln to have a safe place to call home during this public health emergency," Gaylor Baird said.

Chief Nebraska Supreme Court Justice Mike Heavican has also been urged by some of the same groups to halt evictions. 

Courts remain open in the state, and Nebraska's State Court Administrator, Cory Steele, told the Omaha World-Herald the chief justice will convene a group to discuss the issue this week.

At a Friday news conference, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said his staff was reviewing who in Nebraska has the legal authority to suspend evictions.

But he's counting on landlords to do the right thing, he said.

"My expectation is that landlords will not be evicting tenants, just the same way that public power’s not cutting people off for their utilities bills," Ricketts said during his Friday news conference. "Folks, we’ve got to help our neighbors out here. We’re all going through a lot of tough times."

The vast majority of landlords want to work with their tenants, said Lynn Fisher, whose company Great Place Properties oversees 600 units across Lincoln from houses to apartment buildings.

Tenants who run into trouble making rent because of the pandemic should contact their landlord and, likely, the two parties can work together, Fisher said.

Each month, about half a dozen of Great Place tenants are late on rent, and only about one or two reach the eviction process in a three-month span, he said.

No landlord wants to go through the expense and emotional process of having someone evicted, Fisher said, but it's an important option of last resort for tenants who refuse to communicate and pay.

Fisher doesn't believe a sweeping eviction moratorium should be implemented.

"No one is going to give us a moratorium on our obligations,” Fisher said, adding some landlords have very thin operating margins between taxes, payroll, upkeep and maintenance.

He believes most landlords and investment companies will prove themselves to be good neighbors during these turbulent times, Fisher said. 

But Goddard said allowing evictions to proceed still risks the health of the evicted as well as the community when public health officials urge people to stay home.

"Whether 95-97% of landlords do the right thing, there are still going to be (people) in the city of Lincoln evicted in a public health crisis," Goddard said.

Fisher worries a moratorium could give some tenants cover to skip rent next month, he said.

But Goddard said a moratorium could be designed to ensure tenants capable of paying aren't off the hook if they miss rent. He wouldn't favor a policy adding an interest penalty to back rent. 

"I'm not suggesting it's easy for anybody," Goddard said. "I think the alternative of people being put out of their home right now is incomprehensible.

"We’ve heard that phrase a lot, but it’s never been more true than now."

Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

This article originally ran on journalstar.com.

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