Eviction Moratorium ending in "off-ramp" plan

Jessica Stölen-Jacobson
Montevideo American-News

After a 15-month ban on evictions in Minnesota, the Eviction Moratorium is coming to an end. The Eviction Moratorium banned landlords from removing tenants from their properties for failure to pay rent as a part of protections put in place with the Governor’s Peacetime Emergency measures that came along with the COVID-19 pandemic. At a news conference held at the end of June, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan and Minnesota Housing Commissioner Jennifer Ho answered questions about the winding down of the state’s emergency responses to the pandemic, as well as to clarify a bill signed by Governor Walz that provides an “eviction off-ramp” law passed by the Minnesota Legislature. The law went into effect on June 30, and is designed to gradually phase out the Eviction Moratorium in phases that started June 30 when landlords were first allowed to give notices of lease termination or nonrenewable of a lease to households that have “materially violated the lease (other than nonpayment of rent)”. This date was also the start of allowing landlords to begin the process of evicting tenants who are behind on rent despite being eligible for a COVID-19 emergency rental assistance program, who didn’t receive funding for reasons such as refusal to apply for the program or refusal to comply with the application process.

The next step happens July 14th, when the law allows evictions to be filed for “households that have materially violated their leases (other than nonpayment of rent). By August 13th, landlords can terminate the leases of renters who are behind on rent under the category of those not eligible for COVID-19 emergency assistance programs. September 12th, landlords can file evictions “against renters who are behind on rent and are not eligible for a COVID-19 emergency rental assistance program”. On October 12th, any remaining restrictions on lease terminations and eviction actions will be lifted with the exception of allowing a landlord to file or proceed with an eviction action against any household with a pending COVID-19 emergency rental assistance program application. By June 1, 2022, all restrictions provided by the Eviction Moratorium are to be lifted.

During the press conference, Lt. Gov. Flanagan said the bill will safely end the eviction moratorium while providing time to access significant federal resources that are available for emergencies. “This off-ramp gives renters who have fallen behind time to get caught up and property owners time to be paid,” Flanagan said. 

In Chippewa County, many could face evictions with a 10.4% poverty level listed on the census.gov website in 2019 out of an estimated population of 11,800. Those statistics were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yellow Medicine County faces a similar poverty level at a 9.6% poverty rate in 2019, out of the population of 9,709.

At the press conference, Minnesota Housing Commissioner Jennifer Ho referenced that perhaps there are more Minnesotans eligible for COVID-19 emergency rental assistance than know they are. To be eligible for a COVID-19 emergency rental assistance program, federal requirements state a household must be a renter in Minnesota, have a household income under 80% of the area median income (for Yellow Medicine that is $59,210 annually, for Chippewa that is $55,269 annually), have a member of the household that can demonstrate the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted their ability to pay rent and be at risk for housing instability and homelessness. To find out more about qualifying for the assistance, visit www.RentHelpMN.org or call 211. As well, anyone who has applied previously but had their circumstances change and think they may now be eligible can request assistance needed back to March 13, 2020, for up to 18 months, regardless of if they were eligible during that period.

There is a difference between a lease termination and eviction. Lease termination is a notice given to households by a landlord to inform them that their tenancy will be ending and does not appear on tenant reports, however, an eviction action is a legal action in court to require tenants to give up possession of the property and does appear on tenant reports as well as in court file records. Those facing eviction and wondering about their legal rights are encouraged to reach out to the Home Line’s tenant hotline at 866-866-3546 or https://homelinemn.org. More information about renter's rights is also available at www.LawHelpMN.org.