U.S. Attorney Recognizes UNL Law's Effort to Protect Tenants

Jan. 28, 2022, 5:19 p.m. ·

For rent sign with a brick apartment building in the background and tree branches in the foreground.
A federal eviction moratorium put in place during the pandemic expired at the end of July. (Photo courtesy NPR Creative Commons)

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A University of Nebraska College of Law program earned the attention of U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland during a White House sponsored event . UNL’s Tenant Assistance Program (TAP) was one of a number of projects launched by law schools around the country to keep renters from being evicted during the pandemic.

As people lost jobs and income during the COVID pandemic, the U.S. attorney general asked law schools to help provide legal services to the thousands of people facing eviction from rental homes. The law college at the University of Nebraska decided to take part, offering legal advice to Nebraskans at no cost.

Students helped by preparing background materials and contacting people who were not aware their landlords filed an eviction notice in court. In some cases, qualified students, supervised by licensed attorneys, appeared before the judge in the hopes of intervening before someone was thrown out of their home.

The success of the Tenant Assistance Program, known as TAP, earned recognition by the U.S. Department of Justice during a live-streamed event. UNL law student Rachel Tomlinson Dick spoke of the success of their initiative.

Rachel Tomlinson Dick in a gray blazer with a black and white striped shirt against a white background.
Rachel Tomlinson Dick (Photo courtesy of Appleseed Center)

"Astoundingly TAP has a 98% success rate of preventing immediate eviction and has helped over 400 Nebraska families just since the call to action. Additionally, over $9 million in emergency rental assistance has been distributed directly because of TAP's efforts."

Recently, the program expanded to include law students from Creighton University. Diane Uchimiya, the professor in charge of the law school’s clinics, says the alternative for many renters would be trying to fight losing their home without an attorney.

Diane Uchimiya wearing a black top with a white necklace against a gray background.
Diane Uchimiya, Creighton College of Law (Photo courtesy of Creighton University)

"Where the stakes are really high for that individual, the cost of not having Counsel of not having legal representation is so high. It results in loss of housing, which is especially maddening when, when there are programs and when there's funding available to help with rental assistance."

The Tenant Assistance Program may find itself in greater demand in coming weeks. The Ricketts Administration confirmed it will not apply for $120 Million set aside by Congress to assist Nebraskans behind on their rent. In a prepared statement, Ricketts called the program “irresponsible,” adding the state “should not be using taxpayer money to pay people’s rent without a good reason.”