Attorney General Ellison files another lawsuit to protect tenants from forced removal during COVID-19 pandemic
Landlord who currently lives in Florida refuses to supply propane to Aitkin County tenants who are sheltering in place — AG seeks emergency relief for tenants from landlord’s violations of Governor’s Executive Order and landlord-tenant laws
April 17, 2020 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced today that his office has filed a lawsuit against Aitkin County landlord David LaPlant, who is violating Governor Tim Walz’s Executive Order 20-14 and Minnesota’s landlord-tenant laws by refusing to supply his tenants with propane for heat after their tank ran empty while they shelter in place with their three children during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite being required to provide his tenants with propane gas to heat their home in McGrath, LaPlant — who currently resides in Florida — told tenants in mid-March that he would not refill the tank at the duplex property because the tenants in the downstairs unit owed him rent. The tenants in the upstairs unit are furloughed from their jobs and cannot afford to refill the tank themselves. When the Attorney General’s Office informed LaPlant that his tenants are without propane and that he is violating the executive order and state law by not providing it, he continued to refuse to refill the tank and said his tenants should rely on public assistance to get the tank filled.
The Attorney General’s Office is seeking emergency relief from the Court to restore heat to the tenants’ home and prevent the landlord from interfering with their continued residency during the peacetime emergency.
“I’m concerned anytime a landlord breaks state law and makes tenants’ homes uninhabitable. To do that to folks who are furloughed because of the pandemic and staying at home is illegal under the Governor’s order and just inhumane,” said Attorney General Ellison. “Landlords need to know that they cannot refuse to provide habitable homes to their tenants, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when families need to stay home to keep themselves and others safe. Most landlords are doing the right thing right now, and I thank them. The ones who aren’t need to know that if they refuse to follow the law and the executive order, I’ll take them to court to make them comply,” Attorney General Ellison said.
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 his enforcement action, the Attorney General 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 the Office’s costs and fees.
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 available on the front page of the Attorney General’s website.