Three Steps Renters Can Take to Prevent Eviction
Individuals and families who have struggled to pay their rent during the COVID-19 pandemic have received protection from eviction since March 2020 through federal and state actions. These protections, however, have either ended or are being phased out. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to continue to prevent eviction.
Protections That Ended or Are Being Phased Out
The federal CARES Act in March 2020 included a temporary moratorium on evictions and prohibited landlords from initiating eviction proceedings against tenants for the non-payment of rent and related fees. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) extended this moratorium as a public health measure to stop the spread of COVID-19, which could increase if evicted tenants experienced homelessness or had to live in overcrowded housing conditions. On August 26, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that this moratorium would end.
In Minnesota, Governor Walz issued executive orders in 2020 that provided additional protections to renters from eviction besides non-payment of rent (e.g., notice of termination of nonrenewal of a lease or lease violations that didn’t involve property damage or breaking the law). In June 2021, Governor Walz and the Minnesota Legislature agreed to phase out the moratorium.
As part of this phase out, Governor Walz and state legislators created the following timeline:
- As of July 14, 2021, renters can be evicted for violated their lease for reasons other than not paying rent. They could also be evicted if they qualify for rental assistance but refuse to apply.
- As of August 13, 2021, a renter’s lease can be terminated if they have not paid their rent and are not eligible for COVID-19 rental assistance.
- As of September 12, 2021, renters can face eviction if they have not paid their rent and are not eligible for COVID-19 rental assistance.
- As of October 12, 2021, renters can have their lease terminated or face eviction unless they have a pending application for rental assistance.
- Renters are protected from eviction while their rental application is under review either until June 1, 2022 or until their application is denied, whichever comes first. The moment the application is no longer under review, all protections end.
What You Can Do to Protect Yourself
Minnesotans still struggling to pay their rent are now vulnerable to eviction. Avoiding an eviction is crucial. Not only do you face the immediate prospect of having no place to live; it will be much harder to find a place with an eviction on your record. Here’s what you can do to prevent this from happening.
1) Communicate with Your Landlord Immediately
Contact your landlord immediately about your current hardship and let them know that you are putting together a plan of action. Your landlord might be willing to work out an agreement, such as an affordable repayment plan for back rent, time to apply for and receive emergency assistance or a reasonable timeline for moving out.
2) Apply for Emergency Rental Assistance Now If You Haven’t Already
For Minnesotans who are struggling to stay in the apartment or home they are renting, there is help available.
- RentHelpMN provides assistance for eligible renters across Minnesota to pay for past due rent and utilities and for upcoming rent if the renter will struggle to pay that. Renters can visit RentHelpMN.org or call 211 to learn more about the program and apply. It is sponsored by Minnesota Housing and administered through county and human services agencies.
- The Zero Balance Project offers emergency rental assistance to tenants in Dakota, Hennepin and Ramsey counties. This project will process applications for renters in these counties who do not have active applications through RentHelpMN. Landlords start and lead the application process on behalf of their renters.
- Some tribal governments received federal funding to operate their own rental assistance programs. If you are connected to services through a tribe in Minnesota, contact them directly for more information.
- If you live outside of Minnesota and are facing eviction, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has a list of organizations that are distributing federal emergency rental assistance. Go to the CFPB’s website to see if your state, county, tribe or territory has an assistance program.
3) Know Your Rights as a Tenant
Learn what your landlord can and can’t do with regards to eviction.
- Federal Rights: The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability and familial status. If you suspect that your eviction is based on one of these protected classes, you may file a complaint with the federal office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO). Call 800.669.9777 or visit the FHEO website.
- MN State Eviction Rules: If you are in danger of being evicted for not paying rent, your landlord must give you 15 days’ notice as opposed to the standard seven days. This rule is in effect until October 12, 2021. When receiving this notice, it includes information on how to apply for emergency assistance and how much you owe.
- Other Rights: A landlord must take proper legal action before they can evict you because you fell behind on your rent. One action is obtaining a writ of possession, a document the court gives to the landlord if the landlord wins an eviction lawsuit. If you are locked out of your unit without proper notification and/or writ of possession, call your local police (911) and Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid immediately.
Here are other resources to protect your rights as a tenant:
- HomeLine: Provides free and low-cost legal, organizing, education and advocacy services to tenants throughout Minnesota.
- COVID-19 Renters’ Rights and The End of the Moratorium - Frequently Asked Questions: Created for Minnesota tenants.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau web page on Tenant and Debt Collection Rights
Don’t Delay; Act Now
As soon as rent payments become hard to make, act immediately. While it is a stressful situation, there are still steps you can take to prevent eviction.
In addition to the suggestions above, LSS Financial Counseling offers rental counseling through the Renters Advantage service. This free service is available to Minnesota renters who live in subsidized housing properties owned by CommonBond and Aeon. Call us at 888.577.2227 for more information.
If you are looking for ways to better manage your monthly expenses and bills, LSS Financial Counseling also provides trusted, nonjudgmental support. Call us at 888.577.2227 for a free, confidential appointment or get all your support online.
Author Ray McCoy is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS Financial Counseling.