The Minneapolis City Council is scrambling to pass a new protection for renters before a statewide eviction ban ends.

Council Members Jeremiah Ellison, Jamal Osman, Cam Gordon and Council President Lisa Bender have introduced an ordinance that would require landlords to give tenants at least two weeks' written notice before filing an eviction complaint in court for unpaid rent.

More than half of Minneapolis residents, or about 89,000 households, are renters, according to the city. Many of them are people of color and low-income.

"The pandemic had created enormous economic pressure and hardship for a lot of Minneapolis families," Bender said. "When and if that moratorium on evictions is lifted, we know that a lot of folks in our community are in danger of eviction or displacement."

At a public hearing Tuesday, landlords pushed back on the proposal, saying it would prolong an already lengthy process of removing tenants.

Gov. Tim Walz issued a moratorium on evictions in March 2020 to protect the public during the pandemic. With the crisis easing, state legislators now are debating when to end it.

Even before the pandemic, Minneapolis leaders had identified evictions as a practice that perpetuates racial disparities in housing. A study done by the city in 2016 found that half of north Minneapolis renters have been evicted over a three-year period.

To help tenants with past evictions and to remedy the city's affordable housing crisis, the council in 2019 passed an ordinance that restricted landlords' ability to use older cases in housing court and other background information to reject prospective tenants.

Minnesota law does not require landlords to give tenants any notice before filing an eviction complaint in court. But in recent years, local governments have enacted their own eviction protection laws to prevent displacement.

Minneapolis officials said they are following the lead of St. Louis Park, which adopted a similar ordinance in late 2020 that requires landlords to give renters a seven-day written notice before filing an eviction action.

St. Paul also passed "just cause" as part of its SAFE Housing ordinance in 2020, which required landlords to provide written notice when not renewing a tenant's lease. A group of landlords later sued the city of St. Paul, arguing the ordinance violated their constitutional free speech, due process and property rights.

Minneapolis initially included a "just cause" provision in its proposed ordinance but removed it after a federal judge this week ordered St. Paul to halt enforcement of its ordinance while litigation is ongoing.

At Tuesday's public hearing, opponents of the ordinance, including the Minnesota Multi Housing Association, a group representing property owners statewide, said the proposed law would hurt the renter-manager relationship and lead to more eviction filings.

Other landlords who spoke said a two-week notice would drag out the process for no good reason, because tenants are not blindsided when they're about to be evicted.

"[The proposed ordinance] will make affordable housing more expensive," said Karl Krueger, a landlord in north Minneapolis. "This is just going to be more costly and we will raise our rents to compensate."

Meanwhile, tenants and housing advocates pressed council members to extend the time period to at least 30 days, saying tenants will need that time to get emergency rental assistance from the county.

"To give less than 30 days' notice to residential renters who we know disproportionately represent low-income and BIPOC communities is not only ineffective, but inequitable," said Grace Berke from the Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association.

Council members were also at odds on the length of time they should require a landlord to give a tenant before eviction. Osman said many residents in his Ward Six — which has a large immigrant population — are evicted without any notice. He said he pushed for a 30-day notice but was unsuccessful.

After the public hearing, Gordon brought forward an amendment extending the time period to 30 days, but he withdrew his motion after council members expressed some legal concerns. Council Members Jeremy Schroeder and Ellison said they're worried about the policy getting voted down if they change the time period to 30 days, but expressed interest in changing it to 24 days.

The council will take up the issue next week at its committee of the whole meeting to discuss whether to extend the time period and its legality.

Faiza Mahamud • 612-673-4203