The Minnesota eviction process provides for a number of steps and procedures that a landlord must carefully follow or risk having an eviction process dismissed by the court.
Should a landlord not adhere to the Minnesota eviction process by neglecting to use the judicial process in ordering a tenant to vacate, he or she can be subject to considerable civil penalties. Self-help measures to expel a tenant are unlawful and include shutting off utilities, denying a tenant access to the premises, removing the tenant’s personal belongings and threatening the tenant.
To regain possession, the tenant may petition the court. If the court grants the petition, the tenant may also recover damages of $500 or triple the tenant’s damages, whichever is greater.
The landlord or agent may also be charged with a misdemeanor if the self-eviction measures were intentionally designed to expel the tenant.
Reasons for Minnesota Eviction
Residential evictions in Minnesota include the following circumstances:
- Nonpayment of rent
- Holdover after lease expiration
- Significant lease violation
- Cancellation of a contract for deed
Most written leases provide for conditions that, if violated, may bring an action for eviction but the violation must be major. This can include drug or other criminal offenses committed on the premises, having unauthorized pets or persons living on the property or for substantially damaging the property. For some of these violations, the lease may provide for a compliance period.
Notice to Quit
Minnesota law requires that the landlord provide in writing either in the lease agreement or before the tenancy begins the name of the person managing the premises and the name of the landlord or agent authorized to accept service of process and of other notices and demands.
The Minnesota eviction notice may be for nonpayment of rent but a landlord may be able to immediately initiate an eviction action unless the lease provides for a notice period, usually 14-days. For lease violations, the landlord may also initiate an immediate eviction action. For non-lease arrangements, the Minnesota eviction process requires that the tenant be given a 14-day notice to quit. The non-lease arrangement generally refers to a tenancy at will, or an arrangement where the tenant leases the property for an unspecified time until the landlord gives notice.
No notice is required if the eviction is for the tenant having violated laws regarding selling, possessing, manufacturing or allowing illegal drugs on the premises.
If the lease does not provide a notice period, then 30-days written notice is required or one full rental period.
Tenants are given an opportunity to pay the entire rent owed or to remedy the lease violation within a certain time specified in the lease, or they will have to vacate, usually within 30-days.
Summons and Complaint
Once the tenant has failed to comply within any notice period or if no notice is required, the landlord must file and serve a Summons and Complaint on the tenant. Only a process server can serve the tenant.
Service must be made at least 7 days before the hearing noticed on the Summons. It may be made personally on the tenant or by leaving it with a person of suitable age and discretion who lives on the property.
If personal service cannot be made but is attempted at least twice on different days with one attempt between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m., then mailing and posting in a conspicuous location at the tenant’s premises may suffice. The process server in this instance must complete and file the following 4 affidavits with the court at least 3 days before the hearing:
- Affidavit of Mailing
- Affidavit of Not Found
- Affidavit of Plaintiff (landlord)
- Affidavit of Posting
All parties must appear in court on the date noted on the Summons. The tenant can orally admit or deny the landlord’s allegations and either party can ask for a jury trial or court trial. If the allegations are denied or counterclaims are made, the trial will be held within 7 days unless the parties agree to extend the time. The time from filing the Summons and Complaint to the eviction trial is typically 14-days.
Some of the larger Minnesota counties have separate housing courts where eviction hearings are held.
Tenant Defenses in Minnesota
A Minnesota residential tenant has a number of available defenses, including the following:
- Full rent was tendered or paid.
- Partial payment was accepted, constituting a waiver of the eviction process by the landlord unless the landlord indicated in writing before acceptance or if it is in the lease that partial payment is not a waiver of an eviction action.
- The notice or Summons and Complaint were not properly served.
- Retaliatory eviction.
If the eviction action begins 90-days after the tenant complained of a health, housing, building or safety code violation or tried to exercise some other rights under law, or joined a tenants’ group.
Breach of warranty of habitability and duty to repair.
If the tenant gave the landlord written notice and a reasonable time to repair a hazardous condition, which the landlord failed to do.
A tenant may not be evicted based upon his or her race, sex, religion, creed, national origin, family status, welfare status, sexual preference or disability.
Both sides are permitted to present their arguments at trial with the landlord having the burden of proving a lease violation, lease expiration, status of the rental arrangement, or nonpayment of rent. Proper notice if given must also be established.
Once the trial is completed, the court is required to issue Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and an Order for Judgment. If the landlord prevails, he or she can request a Writ of Recovery. The Writ is given to the sheriff to serve on the tenant who has only 24-hours to vacate after service. In nonpayment of rent evictions, the tenant is allowed up to 7-days to pay the rent owed along with any costs.
Tenant’s Personal Possessions
If the tenant is forcibly removed or vacates while leaving personal property behind, the tenant’s personal belongings must be stored by the landlord. The landlord must keep an inventory of the items taken and have it dated and signed by the landlord along with the badge number of the sheriff or peace officer who directed the seizure on the date specified on the Writ of Recovery. To reclaim the property, the tenant must pay the landlord’s expenses incurred in seizing and storing them.