Debate over eviction moratorium continues as Minnesota legislative session approaches

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“Making sure people don’t experience homelessness, making sure people don’t have to double down, moving in with someone else because they lose their home,” said Eric Hauge, the executive director of HOME Line. “It actually saved lives.”

Hauge said people would often pay rent before food or even medicine.

“Everything else falls apart if you get evicted or lose your home,” he said.

HOME Line provides free legal aid to approximately 15,000 renter households statewide each year. Since last March, about half of those calls have come from people concerned about the pandemic.

“Can I be kicked out?” Why can I be kicked out? What does the suspension mean to me? When will the suspension end? Those kinds of questions, ”Hauge said. “And also threats. People who were facing eviction threats or landlords telling them they had to go out without any sort of court order, which had no authority but happened anyway. People shut down their utilities, their towed cars because they were behind on rent, things that kind of tried to get around the protections that were in place.

According to court documents, Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office has filed a lawsuit against a landlord who “refused to refuel the propane needed to heat his tenants’ homes” in McGrath, despite temperatures below freezing. freezing in March and April 2020, “thus putting an end to renting them out and expelling them constructively”.

This is one of eight times Ellison’s office has sued homeowners for violations of the executive order. The attorney general’s office told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that it has so far received 2,928 complaints of potential violations.

Under the moratorium, rent is still due. Evictions, however, are limited to cases where a tenant seriously endangers the safety of other residents or breaks certain laws.

“We now have situations across the state of Minnesota where we have residents, neighbors who are really behaving inappropriately, we can’t fix these issues,” said Cecil Smith, president of Minnesota Multi-Housing. Association, whose members include property managers across the state. “What could not be addressed are the people who smoke in a non-smoking building, the people who throw loud parties night after night, the people who express racial epithets to their neighbors in the hallway, the people who threatened property managers or other neighbors. . “

He said the owners were also facing financial strains.

“Especially the small landlords who had to sell their properties because they weren’t getting any rent and there was a mortgage to pay,” Smith said.

He told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that they are seeking a solution from lawmakers.

“We are the last major industry to remain essentially under the same set of rules that we started in March 2020 and we are still awaiting a response,” Smith said. “We have been asking for an exit from the situation since last year and there were discussions at the start of the legislative session, and here we are at the end of the legislative session and there is still no solution.

The House and Senate have passed bills on the moratorium on evictions.

The Senate version would prevent the governor from extending the order beyond 30 days unless the legislature approves it. The House version would require landlords to provide 60 days’ notice before filing an eviction notice during the 12 months following the end of the peacetime state of emergency.

Both sides told us the next step is a conference committee where lawmakers can strike a deal but a date has not been set.

Smith hopes to see the moratorium end as soon as possible.

“And as reasonably as possible,” he said. “There is a proposal that has received bipartisan support in the Minnesota Senate. He calls for the moratorium to end in a few months. We think it’s reasonable and chronological. “

Renters who are behind on rent can also request assistance through the RentHelpMN program. It is a partnership between the state, Minneapolis, St. Paul and the five largest metropolitan counties. Thanks to federal funding, $ 375 million is available.

A spokesperson for Minnesota Housing told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that there was an additional $ 297 million on the way as part of the second federal emergency rental assistance allocation.

Smith said this funding would ease the financial burden on homeowners.

“We believe this federal aid will easily solve the challenge we face,” he said. “We want people to stay and there is over half a billion dollars in housing assistance that will be available for Minnesota, so let’s help these people. These are the behavioral situations that we want to address. “

Hauge, on the other hand, wants to see the moratorium extended for now.

“I think it’s hard to set a timeline on that until we know how long it takes for the rental aid to come out,” he said. “It’s a complicated process to go through, and once you apply it takes a while for them to actually get the money to the owner or to you, however it works. That’s really what concerns us, is that any sort of excursion should be well thought out. There should be no reason for these unnecessary evictions to be filed when people can be paid, landlords, that we can make sure that all of those balances are equal and people can be overtaken by the rent. The timeline should match the hurdles and timeline tenants need to get that financing. “



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