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House passes policy package to renovate state’s tenant, landlord laws

Drafted exclusively by women and non-binary legislators of color, the omnibus housing policy bill could update tenant’s rights for the first time in decades.

The House passed HF917 late Wednesday on a 70-57 vote.

It would, in part, revamp housing discrimination provisions, as well as lease terminations, evictions and eviction expungements.

Including bills from Rep. Esther Agbaje (DFL-Mpls), Rep. Hodan Hassan (DFL-Mpls), Rep. Kaohly Vang Her (DFL-St. Paul), Rep. Alicia Kozlowski (DFL-Duluth) and Rep. María Isa Pérez-Vega (DFL-St. Paul), the omnibus proposal, as amended, heads to the Senate.

“Overall, this bill will seek to balance the power dynamics between landlords and renters,” said Agbaje, the bill sponsor.

Rep. Brian Johnson (R-Cambridge) disagrees.

“This bill makes it more difficult for housing providers to actually provide housing, make it less likely that they would want to provide housing,” he said

The proposal intends to protect tenants with changes, such as:

  • barring housing discrimination, including a home purchase, against people receiving public assistance;
  • disclosing fees unrelated to a provided service — a watered down version of an earlier iteration of the language that outright banned these fees;
  • restricting landlord entry to between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. after a notice of at least 24 hours;
  • raising penalties for violating entry and notice laws from $100 to $500 in damages plus reasonable attorney’s fees;
  • prohibiting landlords from requiring pet declawing and devocalization;
  • enacting a right to legal counsel for public housing residents for breach of lease eviction actions; and
  • requiring an initial and final inspection of rental units while outlining that a landlord can be liable for monetary damages should they fail to complete the inspections.

[MORE: Read about the bill]

Eviction Updates

Because eviction records currently follow tenants for as long as seven years and keep many people from finding housing, the bill would require mandatory record expungement when the:

  • tenant wins their case;
  • court dismisses the landlord’s complaint;
  • participating parties agree to an expungement;
  • case settles and the defendant fulfills the terms of the settlement; or
  • eviction was ordered three years before the expungement was filed. An unsuccessfully offered amendment would have made it five years.

“We also require a 14-day notice for evictions as the minimum standard across the state so that tenants and landlords have time to negotiate or mediate before things escalate to the courthouse,” Agbaje said.

Additionally, eviction case filings would remain confidential until the case has been decided and discretionary expungement would have amended procedure and review.

For the summons in an eviction action, the bill would require a notice for how to get legal and financial assistance. Courts would have to dismiss and expunge an eviction that doesn’t follow the outlined procedures. And for eviction actions for nonpayment of rent, a government agency could assist in redeeming the unit.

Likewise, the bill would add new requirements for the summons on a writ of recovery and order to vacate a unit, such as how to seek assistance with legal or financial help.

Lastly, the bill would require a stay for all appeals, which pauses court orders from going into effect during the appeal; expand options for notifying a tenant of an eviction action to include phone calls, texts, and emails; prevent a bond from being posted by a tenant unless a case is appealed; and allow a motion to vacate a judgement for situations like mistakes, excusable neglect, fraud, or new evidence.

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