Thousands of Minnesota tenants may have been evicted due to ‘off the books’ evictions

In January 2022, Brianna Berger reluctantly cleared her belongings from her rented Big Lake home. It was evicted after being late in paying rent starting in October 2021.

“I basically had COVID all month, so I wasn’t able to work much that month and had no income,” Berger said.

I applied for emergency rental assistance through rent help A program created to help renters in Minnesota during the pandemic. It was a move that she believed would prevent an eviction based solely on non-payment.

“Someone needs to step up and change things because there are thousands of people out there, I’m sure they’re living in worse conditions than me, and they don’t have a voice,” Berger said.

Berger’s case exposes one loophole that some landlords have exploited to bypass one of the last eviction protections. The maneuver does not require any evidence that the tenant has broken any rules or made any mistake.

Rachel Sterling, COVID-19 Expulsion Response Coordinator at home lineWhich helps the tenants to know their rights.

“There’s not a whole lot that tenants can do to protect themselves in this situation because there’s nothing illegal about it. Unethical, maybe…unethical, maybe but nothing illegal,” Sterling said.

Evictions ‘Out of the Books’

In Berger’s case, she was vacated first through a notice to vacate, which can be issued at the end of the lease or at any time during a monthly or verbal agreement. Notice is often used as an easier “out of the books” – because it requires no justification.

“Minnesota law in normal times does not require the owner to have any cause,” Sterling told FOX 9 investigators. “There could be clouds in the sky today, and I just don’t feel like a landlord anymore, here’s your notice you should be out in 30 or 60 days, and there’s nothing to stop them from doing that which – that.”

When Berger failed to leave, it led to an eviction that only required a “Notice to Evacuate” as the basis for the eviction.

It’s been four months since Berger’s eviction, and she told FOX 9 investigators that she is now living with a friend because she couldn’t find a place of her own with the eviction on her record.

“The eviction is a lot like a felony and it was hard to find where I was,” Berger said. “I just feel like there’s no one on my side.”

Brianna Berger was evicted from her rented home in October 2021.

Brianna Berger was evicted from her rented home in October 2021. (Fox 9)

Hints for tenant repair

There are a few renters fixing tips on the horizon, depending on where you live.

In Brooklyn Center, City Hall recently adopted An order requiring a “just cause” when giving a notice of eviction. Possible reasons could include: non-payment of rent, breach of lease, renewal of the property, or tenant refusal to renew or extend the lease.

At a virtual hearing regarding a tenant in a Brooklyn mall, his voice came out: “You shouldn’t text those who have no lease violation who’ve been here for two years and have been very quiet, people who pay their rent…or you want to put people down because they got help.” regarding COVID.”

However, some owners are critical of the change in Brooklyn Center.

“It makes it more difficult for us to deal with the tenant problem,” said Bob Gardner, who manages about 180 properties throughout the Northwest Metro, including the Brooklyn Center.

“We will never evict a tenant without a case,” Gardner said, adding that the new law places an undue burden on landlords.

“In every case, we have a reason – we’re now required by law to go through a formal process that takes more time. It also leaves us legally exposed. A lot of these things are really hard to prove,” Gardner said.

Legislature’s efforts

In the Minnesota State Capitol, there have been some efforts to advance the rights of tenants, including legislation requiring a “just cause” to terminate a tenancy.

Senator Lindsey Port is the co-sponsor of SF 4317, which is effectively discontinued in the legislature.

While the state does not track the number of unofficial termination clauses, Port estimates the overall impact is significant.

“We expect thousands of families in Minnesota to be protected by policies like this — which look not only at landlord rights, but tenant rights, which is something we haven’t touched frankly in the legislature in any real way.”

Senator Lindsey Port speaks with Fox Detective Nathan O'Neill

Senator Lindsey Port speaks with Fox Detective Nathan O’Neill (Fox 9)

It points to a lack of appetite among lawmakers and the strong influence of lobbyists.

“Tenants who have verbal agreements for their leases, they don’t have a lobby. They don’t have a voice here on the Capitol speaking on their behalf,” Port said. “We have a number of landlords who are both members of the House and Senate. In fact, many of them are on the housing committee. That voice is well represented and I think we need to do a better job of raising the voice of ordinary Minnesota residents who suffer from these types of renters. of things.”

Senator Port pledges to return the case during the next legislative session.