Tenants may dodge fees. Landlords, on the other hand, could face potential penalties.
Rep. Kaohly Vang Her (DFL-St. Paul) said that Minnesota is a landlord-friendly state with a skewed balance of power.
“This is because Minnesota’s tenant-landlord laws have not received serious revision in decades,” she said.
Of the three bills proposed by Her in Tuesday’s House Housing Finance and Policy Committee, HF315 would prohibit landlords from imposing fees.
The bill would also restrict landlord entry and apply fees to landlords for subsequent violations. It was approved and referred to the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee.
The bill offers few exceptions while outlining well-defined penalties.
The types of fees that would be banned include those for move-in, move-out, vague administration practices, lease processing, amenity and access to rental portals.
“HF315 would prohibit those non-optional fees for non-optional services,” said Rachael Sterling, a housing attorney at HOME Line.
“This is different from a pet fee or parking fee a tenant can elect to add to their monthly costs,” she said.
Violators would pay either three times the amount of each unenforceable fee or $500, whichever is greater. In addition, the court could award reasonable attorney fees to tenants.
Landlords entering residential properties could be limited to a four-hour window between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. and be required to give at least 24-hour notice. Instead of a civil penalty of $100, minimum penalties would have to match or exceed one month’s rent and reasonable attorney’s fees.
Siya Sakhardande, a University of Minnesota undergraduate student government representative, testified in support of the bill because of the financial and privacy protections it would provide to student tenants.
“Being taken advantage of our inexperience as renters is something we as students have become accustomed to,” she said.
Jennifer Spadine, a principal at Guardian Property Management, suggested an alternative solution of early fee disclosure. She shares concerns about hidden fees, but believes penalties are excessive in what-she-called an “overly broad” bill.
Rep. Jim Nash (R-Waconia) said the damages seem “like a trial lawyer’s dream,” calling them aggressive and heavy-handed.