The Potluck

Minn. landlord group says members should halt evictions through May

By: - March 23, 2020 9:04 am
apartment building

An apartment building in St. Paul, Minnesota in February 2020. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer

A trade group representing nearly 2,000 landlords in Minnesota is asking its members to halt evictions, late fees and rent increases through May to help ease the economic fallout from the coronavirus and slow its spread.

The guidance comes as Gov. Tim Walz considers ordering Minnesotans to shelter in place, which could come with an order to suspend evictions as it has in other states.

A spokesman for Gov. Walz said he is considering measures to keep people in their homes, including a moratorium on evictions. State Rep. Michael Howard, DFL-Richfield, has drafted legislation that would suspend evictions and offer rental subsidies to people affected by COVID-19, so they could continue paying rent.

“We hope that these guidelines ease renters’ fears, provide our government leaders guidance, and illustrate our members willingness to share in the sacrifices related to COVID-19 without further disrupting a fragile rental housing market throughout Minnesota,” Minnesota Multi Housing Association President Cecil Smith said in a statement.

The guidelines to landlords are:

  • Halt evictions on renters affected by COVID-19, absent extraordinary circumstances.
  • Waive late fees for residents who pay rent after the rent due date because they have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and related government actions.
  • Offer flexible payment plans for residents who cannot pay rent by the due date.
  • Cease new rent increase notifications on all residents starting April 1.
  • Direct renters to available resources to assist with food, health, and financial assistance.
  • Communicate with residents proactively that you are available to assist them and want to work with them to ensure they remain housed.

Minnesota courts have suspended hearing most eviction cases — except those involving personal safety or domestic violence — until March 30. But landlords have continued to file evictions in the interim.

Members of the Minnesota Multi Housing Association own more than 400,000 housing units, a majority of rental units in the state. The announcement follows similar moves by landlord groups in other states. A New York City landlord group pledged to suspend evictions into June.

Renter households are more vulnerable to the economic fallout from efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Low-income people, people of color, and people working in service jobs are all more likely to be renters.

Renters are also more likely to be “cost-burdened,” meaning they spend more than one-third of their income on housing. Of the more than 600,000 households in Minnesota that are renters, 44% are considered “cost-burdened” as opposed to 20% of homeowners.

President Donald Trump last week ordered the Department of Housing and Urban Development to suspend evictions from its 1.3 million public housing units and halt foreclosures on government-backed FHA mortgages.

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Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak

Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Most recently he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.