Minnesota AG: Dakota County landlord to pay $3K after kicking out tenants to sell property

On Wednesday, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced his office has resolved an enforcement action against a landlord who forced her tenants out of their home in violation of an executive order that protects tenants from eviction during the COVID-19 peacetime emergency.

According to a release, Dakota County landlord Joanna Wentzlaff was sued by the state in February, alleging that Wentzlaff used an exemption in Executive Order 20-79, which permits landlords to terminate a lease if they need to move into the property themselves, as a pretext to force her tenants out so that she could sell her home.

Wentzlaff falsely claimed she or a family member needed to move into the rental property when, in reality, she had already hired a real estate agent to help her sell it. The Apple Valley property has since been sold.

The consent judgment entered by the court requires Wentzlaff to pay $3,573.86 in part to reimburse the tenants for their out-of-pocket costs in being forced out, and also requires Wentzlaff to remain in compliance with the governor’s executive orders protecting tenant rights.

Ellison sues landlord for illegally forcing tenant in Apple Valley to vacate during pandemic

"Having a safe and affordable roof over your head is essential to living with dignity and respect. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s also been essential to protecting people’s lives," Ellison said in a statement. "The vast majority of landlords have done the right thing by their tenants and their communities during the pandemic: for those that have not, this case shows once again that my office will hold landlords accountable who violate the executive orders and put the health of their communities and the lives of their tenants at risk."

Under Gov. Walz’s Emergency Executive Order 20-79, property owners are prohibited from filing eviction actions, terminating residential leases, or issuing notices of non-renewal for the duration of the COVID-19 peacetime emergency. An exemption to the executive order permits property owners, however, to terminate or not renew a lease "due to the need to move the property owner or property owner’s family member(s) into the property" as long as the "property owner or property owner’s family member(s) move into the property within 7 days after it is vacated by the tenant."

Ellison’s office has fielded nearly 3,000 consumer complaints since the peacetime emergency was declared. The office has filed eight enforcement actions against landlords for violating those orders and has now resolved seven.

A lawsuit against a Pine County landlord who forced his way into his tenants’ home and disconnected their electricity in an effort to force them out of the home is currently in litigation.