ST. PAUL — State lawmakers on Monday, June 14, struck a deal to phase out Minnesota's eviction moratorium setting up a vote in the Legislature over the compromise measure.
After months of closed-door negotiations, leads on the housing working group at the Legislature announced that they would gradually scale back the moratorium to allow landlords to begin evicting problem tenants and those who failed to pay rent despite having the financial means to do so.
Republicans and Democrats on the working group had been deadlocked over differences in plans put forward by the GOP-led Senate and DFL-controlled House, but after exchanging dozens of versions of an off-ramp bill, they said Monday that they'd settled on one that could appease both chambers and both parties.
"We compromised quite a bit," Sen. Rich Draheim, R-Madison Lake, told reporters. Draheim chairs the Senate Housing Finance and Policy Committee. "We've had probably 50 different variations of this."
Gov. Tim Walz last spring ordered a temporary ban on evictions in an effort to keep Minnesotans safely housed during the pandemic. But with new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths declining and vaccinations ramping upward, Republican lawmakers have said the order, along with Walz's executive powers, should end. Walz has said lawmakers need to reach an agreement on a plan to transition out of the eviction moratorium as a condition of ending the state's peacetime emergency.
The bipartisan proposal would end the moratorium after 105 days but it would be gradually phased out. First, landlords would have the option to evict tenants who'd materially breached their lease for reasons other than missing rent. So those who violated their contract by causing damage, selling drugs from a unit or having a pet that wasn't allowed under the lease could face eviction.
About 30 days later, tenants that had the income available to pay rent but chose not to over the last year could face eviction proceedings. And finally, renters who failed to pay rent due to financial hardship caused by COVID-19 would be prompted to begin rent assistance programs through the state's RentHelpMN program and could face eviction if they don't pursue it.
Renters that apply and are waiting on rental assistance would be protected from eviction until June 1, 2022, under the proposal.
Landlords would also be required to give tenants who owe back rent written notice about their outstanding rent, options available to seek financial help through the state and their intent to begin eviction proceedings if the rent isn't paid or the tenant doesn't apply for assistance.
"It's a way to make sure there's the best communication possible between landlords and renters and that everybody wins and everyone is made whole," Rep. Michael Howard, D-Richfield, said. Howard is the vice chair of the House Housing Finance and Policy Committee.
Minnesota received $672 million from the federal government to help renters pay overdue rent as well as three months of rent into the future if they've faced employment issues and financial hardship due to the pandemic. Lawmakers encouraged renters in need of assistance to visit renthelpmn.org or call 211 for information about programs available.