Q: On March 15 my landlord gave me notice to move out by or on April 15. I'm not sure if this is legal since I pay my rent on the first day of every month. Doesn't my landlord need to give me notice before the first of the month to be out by the end of the month?
A: You didn't mention if you had a written lease or not, but typically if you're on a month-to-month lease and you are paying rent on the first of the month, your landlord should be giving you written notice on or before March 31, 2021, to end your lease on April 30, 2021. Some courts have determined that a notice with an improper termination date is void, and unenforceable. Other courts just permit the notice to become effective at the end of the month.
Also, Gov. Tim Walz has issued a moratorium on lease nonrenewals and terminations of leases, which also includes most evictions, due to the COVID-19 peacetime emergency. That order prohibits landlords from filing nonrenewal of leases. The order clearly states that landlords must not issue nonrenewals or lease terminations while the order is in effect unless they are based upon some specific conduct by the tenant that you have not indicated has been cited by your landlord. The governor issued Executive Order 21-12 on March 15, 2021, extending the peacetime emergency declaration through April 14, 2021. This means that the suspension of evictions and landlord-initiated lease terminations currently remains in place.
You should speak to your landlord and let them know about the emergency law in place not allowing for lease terminations or nonrenewals because of the pandemic. Your landlord may not be aware of the new law. Since the emergency law is due to end on April 14, 2021, but Gov. Walz has already extended it several times, it may get extended again.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also created a moratorium on most evictions and terminations of leases that was recently extended through June 30, 2021. The majority of landlords are being reasonable during this time and trying to assist their tenants. The moratorium on lease nonrenewals or terminations doesn't suspend your rent payment, so continue paying your rent on time.
Rent hikes during pandemic
Q: I'm a landlord in Minneapolis. I know I cannot evict a tenant during the pandemic, but I'm wondering if I can raise a tenant's rent.
A: Ordinarily, a landlord can increase rent after a lease expires or, if the tenant is on a month-to-month lease, landlords can increase rent by providing proper notice. However, due to the pandemic, Gov. Walz has issued a moratorium or ban on terminating leases, lease nonrenewals and most evictions. The governor also has issued emergency Executive Order 20-10 combating price gouging in housing and shelter during the COVID-19 peacetime emergency, which has been extended to April 14 and may get extended further.
You didn't mention whether your tenant has signed a written lease, but if so, the terms of that lease are what you need to follow. For example, if your tenant has signed a six-month or a one-year lease to pay a certain amount of rent monthly, then you cannot raise the rent until the lease ends.
If your tenant is on a verbal or written month-to-month lease, then typically you can raise the tenant's rent only after giving them one month's written notice. However, Executive Order 20-10 prohibits rent increases that are "unconscionably excessive." That term is not clearly defined. What qualifies as "unconscionably excessive" could mean the rent is much higher than it was before; the rent is more than 20% higher than it was before; or the rent is much higher than the landlord is charging for similar rentals. You didn't say whether your tenant is still paying their rent, but if they are still making monthly payments, a rent increase could backfire on you by making it difficult for your tenant to make those payments at a time when you can't evict them for nonpayment of rent, due to the pandemic. The law doesn't state that you cannot raise your tenant's rent right now, but you would have to give the necessary written notice based on the lease, and the increase cannot be considered unconscionably excessive.
Another option is to discuss the situation with your tenant and let them know you need to raise their rent to meet your expenses. See if they are open to a small increase once their current lease expires. It's a tricky situation, though, since your tenant could oppose the increase, keep paying the original rent amount, and you cannot currently evict them due to the emergency order banning evictions during the pandemic.
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.