Due to the high inquiries we are receiving regarding landlord-tenant laws, especially during this pandemic, we will answer some of the most frequently asked questions in this blog. Although the spike in inquiries are due from Thooft Law’s successful representation of landlords in evictions during the pandemic, we address both landlord and tenant concerns as both parties are integral to the residential rental industry.
I received a notice from my landlord saying I have to do automatic payments now.
Do I have to do this?
It sounds like your landlord is trying to ensure he receives prompt payment every month. This may be due to his fear that you and the other tenants won’t pay, and he would be left without recourse for the time being due to the peacetime emergency executive order.
This really depends on your contract. All rental agreements should have an address where you can send your payment, a location, and the methods of payment they accept. If your contract states the landlord requires automatic payment, then you have to do as the contract says. However, this doesn’t sound like it’s the case here. It sounds like you were paying by other means before and he is now changing it.
If the method of payment was not listed as required in the agreement and he has accepted other methods of payment before, he probably cannot require you to do it now. No reasonable housing court judge would agree that a landlord can evict a tenant who attempted to pay in the method that was always accepted. We also can’t see a reasonable landlord rejecting a payment of rent right now in the method you have always paid.
Can I evict my tenant for non-payment of rent?
No, you cannot evict your tenant for non-payment. The new executive order amending the previous eviction moratorium still does not allow for any evictions based on refusal to pay rent. The amendment did, however, keep in place the previous exceptions and added another exception for non-renewal due to landlord or landlord’s family moving in. All these exceptions require a certain level of proof and have legal language that need to be carefully examined. Each situation is different based on the facts and not all situations would qualify for an eviction.
Can my landlord shut off my utilities?
We talked about this in our previous landlord tenant blog COVID-19 and Evictions: What Will Happen After the Ban Lifts? If the landlord shuts off your utilities, it could be a seen as a constructive eviction. A constructive eviction is when a landlord does something (in this case) or fails to do something to make the property uninhabitable or deprives the tenant of the beneficial enjoyment of the property. An example we gave was if the landlord shut off your heat in the middle of the winter because you did not pay rent, this would be a constructive eviction. The answer is probably not.
If I can’t be evicted, why do I still have to pay rent?
As a tenant you still have the contractual obligation to pay rent. You agreed to this amount in your lease. Your lease is a legally binding contract that obligates you to pay the amount you agreed on. It also obligates the landlord to provide a habitable place and other services, such as maintenance. The August executive order specifically states that, “Nothing in this Executive Order relieves a tenant’s obligation to pay rent.” Minn. Emergency Executive Order 20-79, paragraph 2. Under normal circumstances, a landlord can bring an eviction case when a payment is missed. Although that ability of the landlord is suspended right now, this does not mean you won’t be held legally responsible for it. A landlord can still bring a civil action against you for back rent and damages. The eviction moratorium just means your landlord cannot evict you, as long as the moratorium is in place, because you did not pay rent. The moratorium does not mean rent free or free of consequences from your legal obligation.
Why won’t the police do anything when I call them?
As a matter of law, evictions are the responsibility of the court and not a criminal matter. The police are limited in what they can do in responding to a tenant or landlord complaint. For example, if the police are called to remove the tenant because the tenant will not leave the property, the police cannot do that. The police would need a write of recovery from the court before they can remove the tenant. Another example, if a tenant calls the police because the landlord refuses to fix the garage door, the police cannot force the landlord to perform his landlord obligations. This really comes back down to the fact that a landlord tenant relationship is a contractual relationship.
There are many reasons why the police may need to be called. If you do call the police, make sure to get a case number so that you can request the report later as it may be helpful in court.
If you are a landlord or tenant and have any questions regarding your tenant-landlord relationship, we can help. Thooft Law is an experienced law firm in tenant-landlord law and have represented both tenants and landlords. We understand the law, we know what we are doing, and have successfully defended tenant-landlord cases even in this pandemic. Please check out our facebook page, Thooft Law, LLC. For a consultation, call us at 651-364-7725 or email [email protected].
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