(1) A landlord may not demand or receive security, however denominated, in an amount or value in excess of one month’s periodic rent, except that a pet deposit not in excess of one-fourth of one month’s periodic rent may be demanded or received when appropriate, but this subsection shall not be applicable to housing agencies organized or existing under the Nebraska Housing Agency Act.
(2) Upon termination of the tenancy, property or money held by the landlord as prepaid rent and security may be applied to the payment of rent and the amount of damages which the landlord has suffered by reason of the tenant’s noncompliance with the rental agreement or section 76-1421. The balance, if any, and a written itemization shall be delivered or mailed to the tenant within fourteen days after demand and designation of the location where payment may be made or mailed.
(3) If the landlord fails to comply with subsection (2) of this section, the tenant may recover the property and money due him or her and reasonable attorney’s fees.
(4) This section does not preclude the landlord or tenant from recovering other damages to which he or she may be entitled under the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.
(5) The holder of the landlord’s interest in the premises at the time of the termination of the tenancy is bound by this section.
The mandatory attorney fees provisions of the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act include fees for pro bono work. Black v. Brooks, 285 Neb. 440, 827 N.W.2d 256 (2013).
Where there is no written agreement obligating the client to pay an attorney fee award to the pro bono organization, the proper remedy to avoid a windfall to the prevailing party is to award the fee directly to the pro bono organization. Black v. Brooks, 285 Neb. 440, 827 N.W.2d 256 (2013).
The 14-day limitation language in subsection (2) of this section refers to the time allowed the landlord to return the deposit, not the time in which a demand must be made by the vacating tenant. Hilliard v. Robertson, 253 Neb. 232, 570 N.W.2d 180 (1997).
Under subsection (3) of this section, in order to recover a deposit plus an attorney fee, tenant must establish that landlord did not comply with a demand for return of the security deposit. Mason v. Schumacher, 231 Neb. 929, 439 N.W.2d 61 (1989).
Where a tenant prevails in an action under subsection (2) of this section against the tenant’s landlord, the tenant is entitled to recover reasonable attorney fees under subsection (3) of this section as a matter of right; it is not at the discretion of the trial court. However, in order to recover fees under subsection (3) of this section, the tenant must present evidence of the tenant’s attorney fees such that a trial court can make a meaningful award. Lomack v. Kohl-Watts, 13 Neb. App. 14, 688 N.W.2d 365 (2004).
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