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Requiring eviction notices could help tenants and landlords resolve disputes

Acooa Ellis, VP for the Greater Twin Cities United Way, testifies before the House Housing Finance and Policy Division March 4 in support of a bill sponsored by Rep. Hodan Hassan, right. Photo by Andrew VonBank

Minnesota is one of a handful of states that doesn’t require notices before filing for an eviction, Rep. Hodan Hassan (DFL-Mpls) told the House Housing Finance and Policy Division Wednesday.

She’s worked with many people who didn’t realize an eviction had been filed until they received a letter from the court, limiting their ability to work with their landlords and reach a resolution.

Hassan sponsors HF1972, which would prevent that from happening by requiring landlords to give tenants 14 days written notice before filing an eviction on the grounds of unpaid rent.

“We must do absolutely everything possible to remove barriers that prevent folks from having a stable place to call home,” Hassan said.

It was approved as amended and referred to the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Division

A companion, SF338, is sponsored by Sen. Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Mpls) and awaits action by the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee.

Written notice before eviction discussed 3/4/20

The bill would particularly help people facing financial emergencies by making sure they have the documentation needed to secure emergency assistance early enough, Hassan said.

More than 90% of evictions are filed because of non-payment, she said.

“Eviction prevention is homelessness prevention. It’s a lot cheaper to prevent homelessness than to respond to it,” said Acooa Ellis, senior vice president of community impact at Greater Twin Cities United Way.

Rep. Bob Gunther (R-Fairmont) is concerned the bill would unnecessarily extend the eviction process in cases where it was necessary, and that “for those few individuals that just don’t want to pay their rents” the bill would basically give them two months of free rent at the landlord’s expense.

Joe Abraham, principal at Pergola Management, opposes the bill, saying it would limit a landlord’s ability to offer informal resolutions.

These notices would be required to include information like the total amount of money due from unpaid rents, late fees, and other charges, but that doesn’t mean they have to be adversarial, said Lawrence McDonough, pro bono counsel at Dorsey & Whitney LLP.

The notices would also need to include a disclaimer that low-income tenants may be eligible for financial assistance from the county and provide information about how to access legal and financial assistance.

In many cases, where landlords have provided – currently optional – notices like the one described in the bill, it has allowed landlords and tenants to resolve the problem without going to court, McDonough said.

 


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