Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has sued multiple landlords who have attempted to evict tenants during the COVID-19 peacetime emergency.
Under an executive order issued March 23 by Gov. Tim Walz, evictions are suspended for the duration of his peacetime emergency.
In one case, Ellison’s office secured a temporary restraining order against a Pine County landlord who entered his tenants’ home in Sandstone against their wishes, disconnected their electricity, and pressured them to vacate the property.
“We are sitting in our home with no electricity, heat, or running water. We cannot cook food or even flush the toilet,” one of the tenants said in a court affidavit. “My daughter is telling me that she is cold. We have nowhere else to go and cannot risk exposing my daughter to other people.”
The restraining order requires the landlord to restore the family’s utility service and bars him from taking further actions that interfere with the family’s ability to live at the property.
“To protect ourselves and all Minnesotans from this virus, we need everyone to shelter in place and stay home. It’s hard enough to afford your life during the emergency, but to have a landlord try to force out a family illegally doesn’t hurt only them, it hurts every Minnesotan,” Ellison said in a press release.
He said most landlords are “doing the right thing by their tenants,” but for those who aren’t, his “office is showing that we won’t hesitate to make sure you do.”
The Attorney General’s Office has now set up a “tenant eviction complaint form” to report landlords who don’t comply with the executive order.
In another case announced Friday, Ellison said his office sued a Meeker County landlord for repeatedly disconnecting a tenant’s water service and making his home uninhabitable. As a result, the tenant has been forced out of the home and is staying with a friend in another city.
The lawsuit seeks civil penalties against the landlord of up to $25,000 per violation, restitution for the resident, and damages under Minnesota’s landlord-tenant laws.
“Most landlords recognize that their tenants need safe, stable homes at a time when it’s necessary and required to stay at home,” Ellison said in a statement. “But my office is demonstrating once again that if you’re a landlord who’s violating the executive order and breaking the law during this crisis, we’ll take swift and strong action against you on behalf of all Minnesotans.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Background Photo “Eviction Notice” by David Jackmanson. CC BY 2.0.