In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, on March 23rd, 2020, Governor Tim Walz announced Emergency Executive Order 20-14, suspending evictions, suspending lease terminations, and ordering all officers who hold a writ of recovery of premises to cease executing them.
Thooft Law has received numerous inquiries from both landlords and tenants regarding the eviction process. Experienced in landlord-tenant law, here are our answers to some of the most asked questions.
What is an Eviction?
In general, there are two types of evictions:
- Just Cause Eviction – The most common, this usually occurs when the tenant has failed to pay rent, damaged the property, or violated terms in the lease. The process starts by filing an Eviction Action Complaint to the court in the county the property is located in. A judge will issue a decision. If the judge rules in favor of the landlord, the tenant will have a certain date to vacate. If the tenant does not vacate, the sheriff’s office can escort the tenant from the property.
- Constructive Eviction – This is an illegal eviction in all 50 states, and usually results when a landlord does or fails to do something to make the property inhabitable. For example, a landlord shutting off the heat in Minnesota to force her tenants to leave, or a landlord neglecting his maintenance obligations.
Can A Tenant Be Evicted Right Now?
Most likely, no. Governor Walz’s Peacetime Emergency Executive Order 20-01 was extended through May 13th, 2020 and the eviction ban is active for the duration of the peacetime emergency.
Will the Courts Hear an Eviction Case?
Yes, but they are only hearing “high priority” cases. A landlord can still file an “expedited eviction” case if a tenant is (1) causing a nuisance or is doing something illegal, and (2) it seriously endangers the safety of other residents, their property, or the landlord’s property.
Can a Landlord Remove a Tenant?
Landlords cannot “self-help” when it comes to evictions. In Berg v. Wiley, the Supreme Court of Minnesota made clear that “the only lawful means to dispossess a tenant who has not abandoned nor voluntarily surrendered but who claims possession adversely to a landlord’s claim of breach of a written lease is by resort to judicial process.” 264 N.W.2d 145 (1978). In other words, a landlord must go through the courts. In fact, it is illegal in every state for a landlord to take eviction matters into their own hands. The only person that can physically remove a tenant from the premises is law enforcement, and only when they have a Write of Recovery of Premises and Order to Vacate from the judge.
Can A Tenant Be Evicted After the Ban Lifts?
Yes. After the ban lifts, if there is just cause for eviction such as non-payment of rent or violating terms in the lease, the landlord can start the eviction process immediately. Although there is an eviction ban, rent is still due as usual and the executive order does not void the tenant’s obligation to pay rent.
Why Does an Experienced Attorney Matter?
These are unprecedented times with fast-changing rules and updates, not to mention the back log of cases that will be clogging up the courts once the ban lifts. You need an experienced attorney to make sure you are up to speed with the law and to strongly advocate on your behalf in court.
Derek Thooft is a skilled and experienced eviction law attorney, and can start analyzing your case now to craft a solution-based plan for your needs.