Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced a halt to evictions in March to prevent people from being unsheltered during the coronavirus pandemic. Public health officials and lawmakers have urged people to stay home as much as they can to curb the spread of the illness.
But tenants, landlords and homeowners alike have reached out to the Star Tribune with questions about how the eviction moratorium works and what rights people have amid the pandemic. Here are answers to some of those questions.
Q: When does the eviction moratorium end?
A: June 12. Why the middle of the month? It coincides with the expiration of Walz's peacetime emergency order. The governor could decide to extend it. If he does not, people can start filing actions in housing court as soon as June 15.
Q: Didn't the eviction moratorium end when Gov. Tim Walz eased stay-at-home restrictions?
A: The eviction moratorium is on a different timeline than the governor's stay-at-home order, which ended May 18.
Q: Does the moratorium mean people don't have to pay rent?
A: No. The executive order stopping evictions did not relieve people from having to pay their rent or mortgage each month. In fact, Walz, Attorney General Keith Ellison, lawmakers, tenant advocacy groups and landlords have continuously urged people to make rent and mortgage payments if they can or seek financial help that may be available to them if they cannot. The bottom line is: people still need to make their rent and mortgage payments.
Q: What if people can't pay their rent or mortgage right now?
A: It depends on each situation. Federal, state and local governments have programs to help people, including stimulus checks, rental assistance programs and enhanced unemployment benefits. But not everyone has received their federal stimulus check, and social service agencies have seen an influx of people applying for help.
Q: What do I do if my landlord or mortgage lender is trying to evict me now?
A: The attorney general's office has urged people to file a complaint so it can intervene. At the same time, residents are being encouraged to talk to their landlords about their situation. Homeowners are encouraged to call their mortgage lender to make arrangements.
Q: Does a landlord have any options for evicting a bad tenant?
A: Yes. Under the executive order, evictions are allowed in cases where a tenant seriously endangers the safety of other residents or violates other laws, such as bringing in controlled substances, engaging in prostitution or using or possessing firearms unlawfully. Unpaid rent, while financially unsettling, would not qualify as a reason to evict someone right now. But landlords can still file for an eviction if they think a tenant is endangering the safety of others, and tenants can be removed from the property if they lose in court. But tenants rights advocates say the burden of proof for landlords is still quite high.
Q: What about homeowners who can't pay their mortgage?
A: Homeowners are encouraged to call their mortgage lenders to see if they can put their payments into forbearance or work out other arrangements. The state's eviction moratorium covers homeowners who were about to be evicted after a foreclosure. Banks are being encouraged under the order to halt foreclosure proceedings, evictions and late fees for mortgage payments if the homeowner saw a decrease in income or an increase in medical expenses caused by COVID-19.
Q: What's going to happen when housing court opens again?
A: Tenant advocacy groups and the courts are bracing for a wave of eviction filings, between unpaid rents and landlords reporting tenant unruliness. While landlords have been trying to work out payment plans and help tenants access financial assistance and other social services like unemployment help and food assistance, landlords' livelihoods depend on rent checks.