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Tenants could be temporarily sheltered from non-payment evictions

In a single night in January 2022 nearly 8,000 Minnesotans were unsheltered.

“At this rate we are becoming not only the land of over 10,000 lakes, but becoming the land of over 10,000 homeless, not just in the Twin Cities and the metro area but in Greater Minnesota as well,” said Rep. María Isa Pérez-Vega (DFL-St. Paul).

While waiting for rental assistance, many tenants face evictions. Even when assistance arrives, it may already be too late to keep tenants in their homes.

HF602 seeks to stop this.

If a tenant’s rental assistance application is pending, the bill would prohibit evictions for nonpayment of rent. On Wednesday, the House Housing Finance and Policy Committee held the bill over, as amended, for possible omnibus bill inclusion.

“Renters who are financially fragile should not be punished for being poor or just needing a little extra time for help,” said Pérez-Vega, the bill’s sponsor.

Mary Kaczorek, a managing attorney at Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, calls the bill a win for renters, landlords and government alike.

She said renters would get a fair chance in their eviction case, landlords would have a better shot of getting paid rent money that’s owed to them, and the government would have the opportunity and time to process applications and get money out to the people in need.

Bernadette Hornig, a partner at Hornig Companies, a rental housing provider, supports the bill with one concern.

“If you’re going to do something like this, there needs to be a timeline, a reasonable timeline for these applications to be processed so people can get a decision and move on with their lives and receive the funds they’re entitled to receive,” she said.

She was not the only one concerned about pending applications dragging on.

Rep. Brian Johnson (R-Cambridge) successfully offered an amendment — and orally amended by Pérez-Vega — to require the tenant and landlord cooperate with the organization providing assistance in a timely manner.

Within 10 days of a final decision, tenants would also need to report the status of their request to their housing provider.

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