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Tenant-landlord bill agreement would protect domestic violence victims, omit prohibition of income discrimination

The conference committee on a bill to modify residential housing tenant and landlord provisions reached an agreement Monday.

The proposed legislation would, among other things, protect victims of domestic and sexual violence from housing discrimination and further limit other forms of tenant discrimination.

Rep. Esther Agbaje (DFL-Mpls) and Sen. Zaynab Mohamed (DFL-Mpls) sponsor HF3591/SF3492* that would allow tenants to organize, seek remedies if construction delays prevent them from moving into their unit, seek assistance for mental health or health crises, and allow individuals to use a taxpayer identification number on rental applications.

[MORE: View the conference committee report]

The bill no longer includes a House provision that would have prohibited landlords from discriminating against tenants who receive rental assistance, such as housing vouchers. Some Republicans voiced their concern about this provision earlier in the session. However, this provision is contained in HF5242, the transportation/housing/labor supplemental budget bill.

“At the end of the day, I’m glad to present a bill that encompasses the needs of tenants,” Agbaje said.

The bill is meant to bring Minnesota in line with other states’ housing policies and could allow more tenants to be stable in their homes.

“This is a really, really big deal,” said Rep. Michael Howard (DFL-Richfield), chair of the House Housing Finance and Policy Committee.

The bill would:

  • allow tenants to ask the court to erase their eviction notice from official records if the tenant has been evicted for fearing imminent violence after experiencing domestic abuse, sexual extortion, rape, harassment, or stalking;
  • allow tenants to create tenant associations and organize without landlord retaliation;
  • declare that when a tenant abandons their dwelling, their lease is terminated when a new tenant begins a new lease for the dwelling unit, and defines the amount of rent the original tenant can owe if their lease was at-will or periodic; and
  • require landlords to only charge an additional fee for a pet when that policy is stated in the housing lease; accept a taxpayer identification number as a form of identification on a rental application, thereby allowing undocumented workers to apply for housing; and mitigate delays in new housing construction by providing the tenant alternate and equivalent housing, paying the tenant’s rent at an alternate location the tenant secured until the construction is complete, or allowing the tenant to break the lease.

Landlords would be prohibited from:

  • barring a tenant’s right to call for policy or emergency assistance in response to a mental health or heath crises;
  • denying a rental application based on a pending eviction action;
  • collecting rent or a security deposit from a tenant after the premises have been ordered to be vacated due to housing, health, or fire codes violations; and
  • evicting a tenant who has terminated their lease.

The agreement would establish statutory damages of $2,000 for landlords who disclose tenant information about the tenant’s fears of imminent violence from a person or the tenant’s new address or location.

Agbaje and Rep. Andrew Myers (R-Tonka Bay) successfully made oral amendments to push back the effective date of several sections of the bill to Jan. 1, 2025. This would allow landlords and housing leasing agencies to educate their staff on bill provisions.

Conferees agreed to another oral amendment by Agbaje that would delete a section that would have required landlords to disclose all mandatory fees, as well as optional fees for tenant-choice amenities such as pet and parking amenities, in the lease.

Agbaje said the provision was based on stakeholder language but is “too premature at this point.”

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