Press Release

Attorney General Ellison’s office wins halt to illegal removal of tenants during emergency

Pine County District Court grants AG Office’s request for temporary restraining order; Landlord required to restore utilities and barred from taking further steps to interfere with tenants’ residency during COVID-19 emergency

April 7, 2020 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison today announced that Pine County District Court has issued a temporary restraining order in the case of a landlord who had attempted to remove tenants during the COVID-19 peacetime emergency, in violation of Executive Order 20-14 and Minnesota’s landlord-tenant laws. On Friday, April 3, Attorney General Ellison’s office filed a complaint and motion for temporary restraining order against landlord Howard Mostad, who had disconnected the utility service of a Sandstone family who was sheltering in place with their four-year-old daughter who has an underlying health condition that makes her especially vulnerable to COVID-19 exposure.

Under the order, which is redacted to provide the tenants’ privacy, Mr. Mostad is required to restore the family’s utility service and is barred from taking further actions that interfere with their ability to live at the property.

“To protect ourselves and all Minnesotans from this virus, we need everyone to shelter in place and stay home. It’s hard enough to afford your life during the emergency, but to have a landlord try to force out a family illegally doesn’t hurt only them, it hurts every Minnesotan,” Attorney General Ellison said. “I’m glad the court recognized the urgency of this issue and is protecting these tenants and their child. Most landlords are doing the right thing by their tenants who are affected by this emergency, and I thank them for it. But if you’re not, my office is showing that we won’t hesitate to make sure you do.”

One of the tenants stated in an affidavit, “We are sitting in our home with no electricity, heat, or running water. We cannot cook food or even flush the toilet… My daughter is telling me that she is cold. We have nowhere else to go and cannot risk exposing my daughter to other people.”

In its order, the Court wrote, “There is good cause to believe the State will likely prevail on the merits of its claims that Mostad has violated and is violating Executive Order 20-14…  It is clear from the facts shown by the State by affidavit that the tenants will suffer irreparable harm unless Mostad is enjoined from stopping electricity service to their home.”

A hearing to extend the protective order for the duration of the litigation is scheduled for April 13.

Attorney General Ellison encourages Minnesotans to report suspected violations of Executive Order 20-14, which suspends evictions and notices-to-vacate, 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. Attorney General Ellison’s website features dedicated links for price-gouging complaints and for any other COVID-19-related complaints.

Minnesotans without access to the internet may also file a complaint by calling his office at (651) 296-3353 (Metro) or (800) 657-3787 (Greater Minnesota).