Press Release

Tenants File Federal Class Action Lawsuit Against Omaha Housing Authority For Overcharging Rent, Denying Due Process, And Threatening Evictions

Milton R. Abrahams Legal Clinic at Creighton University, National Housing Law Project, and Car & Reinbrecht, P.C., LLO Represent Tenants Fighting for Basic Protections

OMAHA, NE—Tenants in Omaha today filed a federal class action lawsuit against the Omaha Housing Authority (OHA) for unlawfully overcharging rent, threatening evictions, and denying tenants statutorily-required grievance hearings. For years, OHA violated federal law by forcing tenants to pay rent costs despite their qualifying for waived rent via the “hardship exemption”. Some tenants were even sued in court for not paying rent that they did not legally owe. OHA also failed to inform tenants of their federally-mandated right to a hearing when there are actions taken against them. The Milton R. Abrahams Legal Clinic at Creighton University, National Housing Law Project, and Car & Reinbrecht, P.C., LLO represent the tenant plaintiffs.

Professor Emerita and former Abrahams Legal Clinic Director Catherine Mahern stated, “Tenants with very low or no income should have been informed about their right to be exempt from the minimum-rent amount. Instead, in many cases, they were served with lawsuits for evictions and threatened with homelessness.” 

Omaha Housing Authority’s unlawful actions potentially affected the rights of all OHA public housing tenants,Abrahams Legal Clinic Director Diane Uchimiya said. “Systemic violations merit systemic reform compelling OHA to comply with federal law and to make amends for past violations.

OHA sent Rhonda Moses, plaintiff and former OHA tenant, two letters notifying her of a rent increase of almost $400 per month that had conflicting effective dates. On a call with OHA to contest the amount and clarify the effective date, OHA advised her she needed to pay the new higher rent effective the first of the next month. In response, Ms. Moses moved out of OHA housing, and said “I wanted to dispute the rent calculation, but OHA said I just had to pay. That messed me up.

The tenant plaintiffs are asking the Court to ensure the Omaha Housing Authority:

  • Informs and applies the hardship exemption to tenants on minimum rent;
  • Informs all tenants of their right to a grievance hearing;
  • Stops threatening or attempting to evict tenants for not paying the minimum rent and/or without the benefit of a grievance hearing;
  • Provides tenants monetary compensation; and
  • Allows tenants who were evicted or otherwise forced to leave, a return to their homes.

Omaha Housing Authority’s predatory and unlawful actions are unacceptable,National Housing Law Project Associate Director of Litigation Kate Walz said. “OHA has harmed some of the lowest income tenants under its care and threatened them with homelessness. We expect an immediate resolution that helps keep OHA’s tenants in their homes with the rights they are guaranteed under federal law.

Read the full text of the complaint here.