Navigating Minnesota’s New Tenant Protection Laws: 6 Things Renters and Landlords need to know

Oct 27, 2023

Navigating Minnesota’s New Tenant Protection Laws: 6 Things Renters and Landlords need to know

Oct 27, 2023

Navigating Minnesota’s New Tenant Protection Laws: 6 Things Renters and Landlords need to know

Oct 27, 2023

Navigating Minnesota’s New Tenant Protection Laws: 6 Things Renters and Landlords need to know

Oct 27, 2023

This is a guest blog post by, Abu Nayeem. Abu, is a community organizer, co-founder at PreLease SBC, and Data Scientist with a Master's degree in Agricultural Resource Economics from UC Berkeley. This specific benefit corporation focuses on enhancing housing access for renters and fostering healthy and positive relationships between landlords, tenants, and the community. PreLease's innovative approach includes renter support services and Rental Health Assurance™. PreLease was in the Lunar Startups Accelerator, 2023 MN Cup semi-finalist, and featured in the Pioneer Press.

During the 2023 MN legislative session, lawmakers passed several new landmark tenant protection laws. All the protections will come to effect on January 1st, 2024. This is largely due to the lobbying efforts of state-wide tenant legal support and advocacy group, Homeline. Here are the top six things renters should be aware about AND actions they can take. Before we begin, here are a few disclaimers

  • This article does NOT provide legal advice. Seek legal counsel for rental disputes.

  • The residential management is responsible for following the new laws and ignorance is not a valid excuse. Some expectations listed on residential lease may no longer be valid

  • Tenants have NO obligation to inform residential management of these changes. We strongly discourage tenants informing management even for courtesy because it can be be perceived as a threat and they may lose legal leverage

  • The sections that are highlighted indicates new laws that will take in effect next year

Changes for prospective renters

1) Increase transparency of rental fees

  • Rental listing advertisements must disclose all non-optional fees and the total rent payment (including if rent includes utilities). This same information must be displayed on the first page of the residential lease. This also applies to lease renewals. 

  • Prospective renters can request landlords for the cost of utilities within the last calendar year. The landlord is required to comply.

  • Landlords must notify a prospective renter that they can inspect the rental unit before agreeing to tenancy. The purpose of this law is to prevent people signing a lease before seeing the unit condition. This is common in student housing.

What we recommend: 

Renters should make an informed decision. If you are interested in a listing, and all the information is not provided, request the information from the lister indicating the new laws. If they don’t respond or comply, then continue to seek out another rental unit. In addition, renters can report on any suspicious, fraudulent, and discriminatory listings at PreLease. Knowledge is power. 

2) Eviction Expungement Expansion

People with criminal history face considerable stigma and barriers in both employment and housing. Criminal history can be accessed through screening services, and can be viewed in their public record. Criminal expungement is the process of removing a criminal record from being displayed in your public record. 

An eviction (or unlawful detainer) is a court-order removal filed by a landlord to remove a tenant. When applying for a rental unit, often the landlord requires a background check performed by a tenant screening service, which can include identity screening, credit history, criminal history, and etc. 

Currently, federal law limits screening companies from displaying eviction records longer than seven years. However, eviction records display EVEN if the eviction was settled, or the tenant won their case! Renter-favored cases can be expunged, but it needs to be initiated by the individual and is a lengthy bureaucratic process taking approximately three to four months.

The new legislation, effective January 1st 2023, will expand and automate eviction expungement for all records:

  • Active eviction cases will not be on public record until the case is settled

  • Evictions cases that has been settled and/or ruled on renter’s benefit will be expunged 

  • Evictions longer than three years will be automatically expunged. Not requiring initiation

  • Note: it could take the court up to three months to a year to expunge prior eviction records

  • In addition, the recent state legalization of marijuana allows expungement of eviction records where marijuana usage or possession was the sole reason for eviction. This is currently effective, but requires the person to initiate. Though after January 1st, this will be automated.

What we recommend: 

FIrst, check if you have a criminal record in Minnesota. Second, check if any record qualifies for criminal expungement. In Minnesota, most misdemeanors and some felonies (after a clean record of five years) can be expunged. If you apply for expungement from the Secretary of State website or have low-income, then the $300 filing fee can be waived. Please consult with a lawyer prior to taking any action.

Though eviction expungement will occur automatically on January 1st, it can take a long time to process! For those impacted, they can file an expungement, in advance, to be in front of the queue. Also if applied to a rental unit and failed the background check, you can request to view your screening report at no cost. If prior eviction was the reason for your application being denied, you can inform the landlord of the law. 

Finally, the city of Minneapolis currently has extensive renter screening protections. The table below displays federal vs Minneapolis screening.

We strongly encourage renters to take a free PreLease Rental Health Check™ . We can guide renters to improve their screening health, access resources, and connect you to organizations that can help you out further!

Changes concerning current renter

1) Defined 24 hour privacy notice and increased penalty

Prior to the legislation, the landlord's privacy and notification requirements were vague and the civil penalty for each violation was $100. The new legislation now provides basic guidelines:

  1. Tenants CANNOT waive their rights, and landlord cannot put lease conditions waiving these rights

  2. Landlords can enter ONLY for a “reasonable” business purpose and give notice no later than 24 hours. 

  3. Reasonable business purpose includes maintenance, inspections, prospective renter unit inspection, and lease violation concerns with exceptions to emergencies

  4. The notice must specify the window of time of entry and must be between 8AM and 8PM unless both the residential tenant and landlord agree to an earlier or later time.

  5. The civil penalty is now up to $500 per violation AND includes attorney fees! 

  6. This notice applies to maintenance workers, including hired services.

What we recommend: 

If you are a renter, then check your lease! If the lease has narrow or undefined privacy provisions, then inform the landlord of the new law when it’s relevant. If the landlord ignores the law (or retaliates), make sure to record each violation (written record is the best). You can sue the landlord in small claims court at any time, though it’s recommended taking action after moving out so you can be housing stable, and get a larger payout. Not Legal Advice: For a strong privacy violation case, it is recommended that you have voiced your privacy concerns and expectations to the landlord directly at least once. 

If you are a prospective renter and a residential lease does not meet privacy requirements, then inform the landlord they have to comply with the law. If they have not complied, then please report them here.

2) Expansion of Emergency Tenant Remedies Action (ETRA) with reduced court filing fees

A renter files an ETRA to the court when an emergency repair is needed and the landlord is non-responsive for over 24 hours. The new legislation has reduced the court filing fee of $300 to $70 (low-income fee waiver is available)

Qualifying emergencies include:

  • loss of running water

  • loss of hot water 

  • loss of electricity

  • loss of sanitary facilities,

  • loss of heat (minimum 68 degrees fahrenheit)

  • Serious infestation

  • non-working fridge

  • non-working air conditioner (if included), 

  • non-working elevator

  • other essential services or facilities

What we recommend: 

You should have strong understanding how to correctly file an ETRA:

  1. Contact your landlord immediately about the issue. A good faith effort and should be in writing.

  2. If they do not respond in regards taking action within 24 hours, then you can file a ETRA in county or housing court

  3. The filing fee is $70 ($300 before January 1st). If you are low-income, the fee can be waived

  4. Ask the court clerk to seek for legal assistance; Strongly encourage to seek legal counsel

  5. An ETRA has higher priority in the court and the judge may view the case in less than a week. If you win your case, the judges’ decision will likely require the landlord to pay for legal expenses including filing fee

3) Statewide Pre-Eviction Notice (14-day minimum) 

The new 14-day pre-eviction notice applies for the entire state of Minnesota. However, there are some already existing pre-eviction notices for specific scenarios, and the new law will be “added” on top of this law. For renters, the pre-eviction notice is proof of financial distress to seek emergency assistance.

The general application of the 14-day pre-eviction notice includes:

  • The notice ONLY applies to non-payment of rent

  • The notice can be sent after the first day rent was not paid

  • The notice must indicate total amount due with expenses listed by line items and information to seek resources

  • The notice must be hand-delivered or first class mail

For additive cases:

  • Minneapolis already has a 14 day pre-eviction notice for nonpayment

  • St Louis Park has 7 days notice for nonpayment

  • Brooklyn Center has 30 days for nonpayment AND breach of lease. It applies only for affordable housing at or below 80% AMI

  • For manufactured homes, the 30 day notice for rule violation and endangerment still applies

  • Landlords receiving federal subsidies or federally backed mortgages (for property) must provide a 30 day pre-eviction notice via the Federal Cares Act. This applies to public housing, section 8 vouchers, and LIHTC units. This applies federally to ALL US states and territories.

  • The new legislation allows MN public housing renters a court-appointed attorney for breach of lease (in-effect now)

    Additional Resource: Homeline Webinar on Pre-Eviction Notice

What we recommend: 

We predict that corporate management companies will follow a strict procedure in filling a pre-eviction notice. If the landlord does NOT fill out the proper notice requirements, then the eviction cannot be filed. We encourage you to check that if you have additional protections, such as local city ordinance and/or in subsidized housing. You can check for free at NHPD if your landlord currently has a federally funded mortgage for your residential unit. If federally backed, you get a 30 day pre-eviction notice. 

4) Marijuana Legalization (Do’s and Don’t)

The legalization of recreational marijuana in the state of Minnesota passed a few months ago, and is currently in-effect. For legal use, citizens must be at least 21 years old. They can grow and possess marijuana within moderation. In addition, they can use marijuana products where legally permitted. Generally, homeowners have full liberties, condo-owners have some liberty (i.e. condo association), and renters can have limited liberty. Finally, there is legal ambiguity of enforcement in public housing because marijuana is still illegal in federal law. 

Here are some key things for renters to remember:

  • The landlord can prohibit some use of marijuana on their lease, such as smoke-free environments and/or designate smoking areas. Generally, if the landlord lives in the property (i.e. shared room) or sobriety residence, they can place more rigid restrictions.

  • Residents can still claim marijuana smoke as a nuisance. 

  • If you grow marijuana, the plants need to be indoors, and cannot be publicly viewed.

  • Selling marijuana requires a state license

  • Persons under medical marijuana treatment have a “protected class” status in the state of Minnesota. They cannot be discriminated against in housing applications, and receive reasonable accommodations.

Additional Resource: HomeLine webinar on Cannabis Legalization

What we recommend: 

Marijuana legalization does not permit renters to be obnoxious, and the same restrictions to smoking can apply. If you live in public housing, it is still risky to use marijuana (except edibles). The courts would need to decide if they are going to enforce federal ban. Seek legal counsel

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