Press Release

Attorney General Ellison enforces Executive Order against forcing tenants to vacate during COVID-19 pandemic

Files enforcement action against Pine County landlord who disconnected utilities to force tenants out of their home while they were sheltering in place, in violation of Executive Order 20-14; seeks emergency injunctive relief to protect tenants

April 3, 2020 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced today that his office has filed an enforcement action against Pine County landlord Howard Mostad for violating Executive Order 20-14 and Minnesota’s landlord-tenant laws by entering his tenants’ home in Sandstone against their wishes, disconnecting their electricity service, and attempting to pressure them to vacate the property.  The tenants were sheltering in place in the home with their four-year-old daughter who has an underlying health condition that makes her especially vulnerable to COVID-19 exposure. The Attorney General’s Office is seeking emergency relief from the Court to restore the tenants’ utility services and prevent the landlord from interfering with their continued residency during the peacetime emergency.

Copies of the Attorney General’s complaint against Mr. Mostad and motion for temporary restraining order, redacted to protect the tenants’ privacy, are available on Attorney General Ellison’s website.

“Now is the time for Minnesotans to turn toward each other, not away from each other. Most people, businesses, and landlords are doing the right thing during the crisis. For those landlords who aren’t, let this case serve as a warning to you: if you take illegal actions to force your tenants to vacate their property during this emergency, my office will take swift and strong action against you,” Attorney General Ellison said. “I encourage any Minnesota who believes they are being wrongly forced out of their home during this emergency to contact my office immediately. We are committed to putting a stop to conduct like this so that Minnesotans can live with the dignity, safety, and respect we all need to navigate our way through this crisis.”

Under Governor Tim Walz’s Executive Order 20-14, property owners are prohibited from filing eviction actions or terminating residential leases for the duration of the COVID-19 peacetime emergency. Attorney General Ellison’s office has the authority to enforce this Executive Order.  In addition, it is illegal under Minnesota’s landlord-tenant laws for a landlord to interrupt or cause the interruption of electricity, heat, gas, or water services to a tenant and the disconnection of such services is considered a constructive eviction.

In its enforcement action, the Attorney General’s office is seeking permanent injunctive relief, civil penalties of up to $25,000 per violation, restitution for the residents, damages under Minnesota’s landlord-tenant laws, and its costs and fees, pursuant to Minnesota Statutes Section 8.31.

Attorney General Ellison encourages Minnesotans to report suspected violations of Executive Order 20-14, which suspends evictions during the COVID-19 peacetime emergency, by filling out the dedicated Tenant Eviction Complaint Form on the front page of the Attorney General’s website. Minnesotans can also do so by calling his office at (651) 296-3353 (Metro) or (800) 657-3787 (Greater Minnesota).