Next phase of moratorium off-ramp could bring more evictions in Minnesota next week

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There’s been an eviction moratorium in place in Minnesota since the pandemic began to ensure that those who lost their jobs didn’t have to worry about losing their homes, too. It’s been controversial, however, with landlords arguing it prevented them from evicting bad neighbors.

Now, after months of discussion, the Legislature has passed an “off-ramp” to ease out of the moratorium. It went into effect on June 30.

“The off-ramp is complicated,” said Mike Vraa, managing attorney at HOME Line. “The confusion level is so high for landlords and tenants.”

HOME Line provides free legal aid to about 15,000 renter households statewide each year.

Under the off-ramp, renters are protected from eviction until June 1, 2022, as long as they have applied for rental assistance. Landlords will still gain more rights as the year goes on.

There are six key dates.

As of June 30, a tenant can be evicted if they qualify for rental assistance but refuse to apply. According to the Minnesota Judicial Branch, there were 33 eviction filings between June 30 to July 2.

June 30 also marked the start of lease terminations due to material violations of the lease. Evictions due to those violations will begin mid-July.

“July 14th is certainly an important day,” said Vraa. “That’s when a landlord can file an eviction for what’s called material breach of the lease […] an unauthorized occupant, a pet you’re not supposed to have, noise, if you’ve been smoking in a non-smoking building.”

It’s an option landlords haven’t had for nearly a year and a half.

“That’s a pretty big change of pace at that point,” said Vraa. “The real question is how many going to be filed?”

In mid-September, evictions can start for those who have not paid their rent and are not eligible for COVID-19 rental assistance. By mid-October all renter protections are lifted except for those with pending rental assistance applications.

Vraa told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS he’s urging renters to apply for that financial assistance.

According to Minnesota House, a tenant must still be living in the unit in order to receive the assistance.

“If the landlord really wants to get paid, their one real solid chance to getting this money is to work with the tenant through RentHelpMN to try to obtain this giant amount of federally allocated money,” said Vraa.

More than 28,500 applications have been submitted to RentHelpMN, according to the state’s dashboard. Of those, about 2,800 payments have gone out, totaling $14 million.

“It takes some time to process these, there’s a lot of information that needs to be gathered and checked in order to make a payment,” said Commissioner Jennifer Ho. “Know you can’t be evicted while we’re processing that application.”

Commissioner Ho explained renters can reapply if they’ve previously been denied assistance. They can also apply in the month ahead.

“Even if you’re doing okay now but the economy deals you a bad card in the coming months and you get behind just know when you get behind, apply for RentHelpMN,” said Ho.

We asked the Commissioner whether there are provisions to prevent tenants from reapplying to prevent eviction.

“If somebody clearly wasn’t eligible but they just keep applying, the courts could look at income and eligibility and say you made way too much money to be eligible for this program,” said Ho.

For more information about who qualifies for RentHelpMN, click here.

For those who have a pending application, Commissioner Ho shared this advice, “If we contact you and say we need more information, the best thing you can do is to get back to the program with that information so we can keep that application moving along.”