Legislative Bill 591: Proposed Changes Timeline for Notice to Terminate Verbal Lease Agreements
Legislative Bill 591 (“LB 591”) proposes a different timeline for tenants leasing agricultural property to give notice to terminate their oral lease agreements. Nebraska does not have a statute governing these terminations, but the Nebraska Supreme Court has set clear guidelines, as further explained below.
Current Nebraska Law
In Wilson, the tenant had an oral year to year lease to farm the landlord’s land. The Nebraska Supreme Court in Wilson ultimately held that a year-to-year tenancy can only be terminated by an agreement of the parties, express or implied, or by notice given six months before the end of the current year in the year-to-year tenancy. Generally, in the absence of a different agreement, a yearly lease of farmland begins on March 1 and ends on February 28 of the following year, and the rent becomes due at the expiration of the term. Consequently and currently, a landlord must give notice to terminate by September 1. Wilson v. Fieldgrove, 280 Neb. 548, 787 N.W.2d 707 (2010).
Legislative Bill 591
Under LB 591, notice of intent to terminate an oral lease of land used for agricultural purposes shall be given on or before January 1st of a year, and such termination shall take effect no sooner than March 1st of such year. If such notice is given after January 1st of a year, the termination shall not be effective until March 1st of the following year.
Legislative Bill 662: Proposed Changes to Public and Private Nuisance Actions Against Farm Operations
Current Nebraska Law
Nebraska Revised Statute Section 2-4403 is the current law pertaining to public and private nuisance actions against farm operations. The Statute reads:
(1) A farm or farm operation or a public grain warehouse or public grain warehouse operation shall not be found to be a public or private nuisance if the farm or farm operation or public grain warehouse or public grain warehouse operation existed before a change in the land use or occupancy of land in and about the locality of such farm or farm operation or public grain warehouse or public grain warehouse operation and before such change in land use or occupancy of land the farm or farm operation or public grain warehouse or public grain warehouse operation would not have been a nuisance.
(2) No suit shall be maintained against a farm or farm operation or public grain warehouse or public grain warehouse operation for public or private nuisance more than two years after the condition which is the subject matter of the suit reaches a level of offense sufficient to sustain a claim of nuisance.
(3) The limitation provided for in this section shall not apply to any action brought to determine compliance with or to enforce a previous order of a court related to the same claim of nuisance or to any claims for additional damages or equitable relief available when a farm or farm operation or public grain warehouse or public grain warehouse operation fails to remediate a nuisance pursuant to such court order.
The Statute explains that if a farm operation, public grain warehouse, etc. is not a nuisance if it existed prior to the time others would have considered it a nuisance and before further land development changed around it. The Statute further establishes that if a nuisance action is to be filed against a farm operation, it must be filed within 2 years of the nuisance starting, otherwise it is time barred. Additionally, the Statute does not specify who may bring a nuisance action against the farm operation. This is the gap LB 662 intends to fill.
Legislative Bill 662
LB 662 adds specificity and makes it harder for people to bring nuisance actions against farms/farm operations. First and foremost, a person can only file the nuisance action if they own a majority interest in the real property affected by the operation, and the property must be located within a one-half mile of the alleged nuisance. To file a nuisance action, the agricultural operation must materially violate a federal, state, or local law applicable to an agricultural operation. The Bill specifies an agricultural operation is not considered a nuisance if conducted in a manner consistent with commonly accepted agricultural practices and is in material compliance with all applicable federal, state, and local laws. Finally, the Bill limits the time a nuisance suit must be brought from within two years after the level of offense is sufficient to bring a claim down to one year.
Legislative Bill 394: Proposed Bill Helps Determine Damages for Taking Agricultural Land
Taking property for public use is actionable in the state of Nebraska and individuals can recover damages. Current Nebraska law sets forth a generalized strategy for determining damages for condemned property. Legislative Bill 394 (“LB 394”) proposes a more precise method to determine damages for taking agricultural land specifically.
Current Nebraska Law
Nebraska Revised Statute Section 76-710.01 governs damages for the taking of property for public use and the effect of reimbursement by the Federal Government. The Statute does not provide an exact method to determine damages; however, it explains that damages shall include all compensable damages suffered by the condemnee and sets forth separate damages for property severance. The Statute reads:
Where any condemner shall have taken or attempts to take property for public use, the damages for taking such property shall be determined according to the laws of this state irrespective of whether the condemner may be reimbursed for a part of such damage from the federal government and such damages shall include all compensable damages suffered by the condemnee including but not limited to reasonable severance damages and condemnee’s abstracting expenses. In determining the amount of such severance damages, account shall be taken, together with other relevant factors, of the economic effect, if any, caused by the severance therefrom of the part taken or sought to be taken upon the whole of such property as a going concern as it will be and remain after the severance. Any decrease or increase in the fair market value of real property prior to the date of valuation caused by the public improvement for which such property is acquired, or by the likelihood that the property would be acquired for such improvement, other than due to physical deterioration within the reasonable control of the owner, shall be disregarded in determining the compensation for the property. The provisions of this section shall apply to any case now or hereafter pending.
Neb. Rev. Stat. §76-710.01.
Legislative Bill 394
LB 394 was introduced on January 12, 2023. As opposed to Neb. Rev. Stat §76-710.01, LB 394 specifically explains how to determine damages for taking agricultural land. The damages shall include (i) Two times the fair market value of the condemned property; (ii) Reasonable severance damages, including the replacement cost for any of the following located on the condemned property: Dwellings, garages, sheds, barns, wells, septic systems, fences, and any other permanent structures; and (iii) The condemnee’s abstracting expenses. For all other property the damages shall include: (i) The fair market value of the condemned property; (ii) Reasonable severance damages; and (iii) The condemnee’s abstracting expenses.
We will continue to monitor these Bills as they go through the legislative process.
This article was authored by Jelena Milakovic