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Minnesota Legislature

Omnibus housing policy bill that focuses on protecting tenants gains division approval

The House Housing Finance and Policy Division takes amendments to its omnibus bill March 27. Photo by Andrew VonBank

-- Updated with division vote

Increased protections for Minnesota renters take center stage in the omnibus housing policy bill approved by the House Housing Finance and Policy Division Wednesday.

Rep. Alice Hausman (DFL-St. Paul), the division chair, sponsors HF2542, as amended, which was sent to the House Ways and Means Committee.  

One of the many policy provisions in the bill is intended to help renters with evictions that remain on their records – even if the landlord’s complaint was dismissed or the case was decided in the tenant’s favor.

The bill would change when the court can grant discretionary eviction expungements, and add situations in which expungements would be considered mandatory, including evictions that are three years old at the time of filing.

This provision would make it “difficult” for landlords “to screen the bad apples,” however, and could increase the cost of rent by limiting landlords’ ability to come up with flexible solutions for tenants facing financial problems, said Rep. Jeremy Munson (R-Lake Crystal).

[WATCH Omnibus housing policy bill is presented in committee]

An amendment to the delete-all – unsuccessfully offered by Rep. Tama Theis (R-St. Cloud) – would have provided exemptions to the expungement requirements, allowing landlords to remain forewarned of important risk factors in a potential tenant’s past.

These would have included:

  • not paying rent for two months;
  • the “willful and malicious destruction” of a leased residential property;
  • threatening or harassing landlords, employees, or other tenants;
  • harassing or mocking landlords, employees, or other tenants based on gender, sexual orientation, disability, or religion;
  • allowing subleases in violation of a lease; and
  • repeatedly smoking in a smoke-free rental unit.

“I’m made responsible … for what my tenants do,” and a lack of information could pressure landlords into turning away potentially risky tenants, or else force them into messy and expensive evictions, Theis said.

The discretionary expungements outlined in the bill already require judges to determine whether an eviction is “a reasonable predictor” of future behavior, allowing landlords to remain informed of potential causes for concern, said Samuel Spaid, housing attorney and research director for HOME Line.

The proposed amendment also would have allowed evictions to remain on a tenant’s record based on the “basis for eviction,” whether or not it was true, and whether or not a person, or a past roommate, committed the offence, Spaid said.

While acknowledging good landlords who work well with their tenants, Rep. Kaohly Her (DFL-St. Paul) stressed the plight of renters who can be plagued for years by wrongful evictions that remain on their records.

Munson said that these problems need to be addressed through changes to eviction law in the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Division, “not here, penalizing landlords.”

Other notable provisions would:

  • amend requirements for notice and negotiation when the purchaser of a manufactured home park plans to convert its use, including a minimum 12-month notice;
  • increase the cap for the Minnesota’s manufactured home park relation trust fund program to $3 million;
  • allow the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency to impose rent and/or income restrictions on multifamily housing developments as a condition of receiving financial assistance or tax credits and require that these covenants be made for at least 30 years;
  • strike 2018 language regarding the prioritization of projects when allocating low-income housing tax credits; and
  • create new lease requirements, including the front-page placement of move-in and move-out dates and prorated rent information.
     

What’s in the bill?

The following are selected bills that have been incorporated in part or in whole into the omnibus housing bill.

 


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