MN House votes to extend eviction moratorium

The Walz-Flanagan administration rolled out www.renthelpmn.org, which would provide help for tenants struggling to pay rent or their utility bills.

A bill extending the eviction moratorium to 12 months after the expiration of Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s peacetime emergency passed the Minnesota House of Representatives 70-62 Thursday, April 29.

Since March 24, 2020, Walz has prohibited landlords and mortgage lenders from evicting anyone under his peacetime emergency executive order.

The bill would require landlords and mortgage lenders to wait an additional 60 days before starting the eviction process in the year after the peacetime emergency expiration. The only exception to the law would be tenants who destroy property or materially violate a lease.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Alice Hausman (DFL-66A) and its Senate companion is sponsored by Sen. Rich Draheim (R-20). The bill was passed in the Senate 46-21 April 12.

"To avoid chaos, we need a plan," Hausman said.

House Republicans largely voted against the bill, citing concerns for landlords, especially those who may have tenants taking advantage of the eviction moratorium.

Rep. Tama Theis (R-14A) offered an unsuccessful amendment to the bill that mirrored the Senate’s wording. The Senate companion bill states, “The governor must not extend the order beyond 30 days unless the extension is approved by a majority vote of each house of the legislature.”

Theis said landlords cannot continue to miss tenants’ rent payments and maintain their business. She said she has heard that many of the tenants who are not paying rent now weren’t paying rent before the pandemic.

“I have been saying all year, I am scared we are going to lose our housing,” Theis said.

Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan addressed the eviction legislation at their press briefing Friday, April 30. The administration rolled out www.renthelpmn.org, which would provide help for tenants struggling to pay rent or their utility bills.

“We can’t leave folks behind and we can’t have a cascade of evictions that both decimate families, communities, but economically would be catastrophic,” Walz said.

Flanagan said Minnesota had one of the most comprehensive eviction moratoria in the country, and provided financial assistance to renters and landlords. Last year, the administration prioritized housing assistance when deciding where to allocate federal COVID-19 aid.

“We know that many families are still out of work, or have reduced hours, or have had to quit jobs to care for their children or loved ones,” Flanagan said.

Flanagan said she is a renter and her rent each month is the largest expense she pays. She encouraged the legislature to cooperate to come up with a smooth end to the eviction moratorium. She said renters should have the peace of mind they won’t be evicted for nonpayment while the state has resources available, like the new website.

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