March 24, 2020 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced that his office is ready to enforce Governor Tim Walz’s Executive Order that suspends evictions during the COVID-19 peacetime emergency. A dedicated Tenant Eviction Complaint Form is newly available on his website for tenants who believe their landlords are violating the Order.
“This order protects families who have lost their jobs or had their hours cut during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not an excuse not to pay rent: if you can pay, you should, but if you can’t because of the pandemic, you’re protected during the emergency. The order also protects all Minnesotans, because everyone’s health and safety is at risk if families are made homeless right now,” Ellison said.
“I hope not to have to enforce this order, or to enforce it only sparingly,” Ellison continued. “I hope all landlords rise to this moment and do right by people. But my office will use our full powers to enforce it and protect Minnesotans if any tenants are wrongly evicted during the emergency.”
Executive Order 20-14 suspends all residential tenant evictions, notices-to-vacate, and writs of recovery during the peacetime emergency. It prohibits landlords from evicting residential tenants even if the tenant has not paid his or her rent or has violated the lease, or even if their landlord has already filed an eviction action against them. In addition to suspending evictions, landlords are also forbidden from terminating a residential tenant’s lease or in any other way telling tenants they have to move out during the peacetime emergency. The Executive Order provides narrow exceptions to the moratorium, including when a tenant is endangering the safety of other residents.
The order gives the Attorney General’s Office the authority to enforce its provisions. Landlords who willfully violate the tenant protections are guilty of a misdemeanor and may be fined up to $1,000, in addition to any relief available to the Attorney General’s Office under Minnesota Statutes section 8.31, which among other provisions gives the Attorney General the power to investigate and prosecute “violations of the law of this state respecting unfair, discriminatory, and other unlawful practices in business, commerce, or trade.”
In addition to protections for renters, the order also requests that financial institutions stop pending and future foreclosures on homeowners who suffer a loss of income or an increase in out-of-pocket medical expenses due to the pandemic.
As a member of the State’s Executive Council, Ellison voted Monday to approve Executive Order 20-14. The Executive Council’s approval of the Order gives it the force of law for the duration of the peacetime emergency.