Q: I am a landlord, and my rental property is in Albert Lea, Minn. The rental agreement my tenant signed expired in September 2020. I have decided to sell the home I'm living in, so I will need to move and live in my Albert Lea property once my tenant moves out. Can I evict the tenant due to the damage they've caused to the property and because I'm the landlord/homeowner and I need to move into the property?
A: In Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz declared a peacetime emergency through May 14, 2021, prohibiting evictions and the nonrenewal of leases except in certain limited circumstances. As a landlord, you cannot terminate your tenant's lease or file an eviction case against your tenant right now unless you meet one of the exceptions to this law. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a similar national law that protects tenants until June 30, 2021, so if the Minnesota law is not extended past May 14, most tenants will remain protected under the CDC's national law until at least the end of June.
An exception to the ban on evictions in Minnesota is whether your tenant is putting people's safety in serious danger in your yard or in your home. A second exception is if your tenant is doing a lot of damage to the property; then you may be able to evict them. A third exception is if the owner or one of their family members plans on living in the home. Then, as the landlord, you still need to follow the law by giving adequate termination notice under the lease, which is typically one month's notice if the lease has expired, which yours did in September, and there is no notice provision regarding termination in your lease. If your lease contains a notice period of 60 days or two months, then you should give your tenant 60 days' notice to terminate their lease.
These exceptions that allow for eviction during the peacetime emergency are strictly interpreted. Courts look very closely at what the landlord is doing, because people are struggling financially during the pandemic, but also because a move during the pandemic can accelerate the spread of COVID. Before proceeding, you will need to make sure that your decision to evict clearly falls within one of the exceptions.
You haven't stated what the extent of the damage is to your rental property. If it is minor damage that you can repair easily, then the court will not likely allow the eviction to proceed. If the damage is extensive, and your current home sells so that you need your rental home to live in, then you could give your tenant either a 30 days' notice or a 60 days' notice to terminate their lease, depending on the notice required in your lease. If the tenant moves, then you can avoid the eviction process altogether. If your tenant will not move out, then you could file an eviction. However, keep in mind you have a high bar to meet for eviction since you have to prove that you need the rental home to live in, or that your tenant committed extensive damage to the property. It may be easier to just wait until the peacetime emergency ends and give your tenant the necessary notice under your lease at that time.
Kelly Klein is a Minneapolis attorney. Participation in this column does not create an attorney/client relationship with Klein. Do not rely on advice in this column for legal opinions. Consult an attorney regarding your particular issues. E-mail renting questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Kelly Klein c/o Star Tribune, 650 3rd Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Information provided by readers is not confidential.