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Minnesota Legislature

Housing policy bill focused on renter protections approved by House

Rep. Alice Hausman presents HF2542, the omnibus housing policy bill, on the House Floor May 6. Photo by Andrew VonBank

With tenant protections and landlord flexibility at the forefront of its discussions, the House voted 85-49 to approve the housing policy omnibus bill, as amended, Monday evening.

HF2542, sponsored by Rep. Alice Hausman (DFL-St. Paul), now goes to the Senate.

The Senate’s housing policy and finance provisions are included together in its omnibus agriculture department, rural development, and housing finance bill, SF2226, sponsored by Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake).

One of the many policies included in HF2542 aims to help renters with evictions on their records. Some of which can continue to make access to housing difficult, even when those evictions were dismissed or the case was decided in the tenant’s favor.

The bill would do this by changing 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.

Republicans expressed concern that the provision, as it stands, would limit landlords’ ability to effectively screen residents and block their ability to see pending evictions. This would increase risk for landlords and could cause increased rents, safety deposits, and evictions, said Rep. Jeremy Munson (R-Lake Crystal).

A failed amendment offered by Rep. Tama Theis (R-St. Cloud) would have provided some exceptions to this by maintaining access to eviction records under certain conditions, including: two months of non-payment of rent; repeated violations of a building’s smoking policy; and $1,000 or more in “willful and malicious” destruction of property.

“Every time you file an eviction … it shows up. It haunts people,” said Rep. Hodan Hassan (DFL-Mpls) in objection to the amendment. “It’s possible the case has been dismissed … (but) it follows you around.”

Another provision in the bill intends to “close loopholes” in state law that gives a right of first refusal to people who live in manufactured home parks if the owner decides to sell that property. Making the law work better should keep people from being displaced and losing their homes, said Rep. Michael Howard (DFL-Richfield).

Rep. Jerry Hertaus (R-Greenfield) offered a series of amendments – mostly rejected – that would have modified the bill’s provisions regarding manufactured home parks, which he called a “great alternative” that “should be encouraged.”

But he expressed concern regarding the bill’s language, saying that it could threaten the longevity of parks and discourage people from opening new parks.

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.

 


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