Attorney General Ellison wins relief for tenants without utilities during pandemic
Resolves enforcement actions against two landlords who failed to provide utilities to tenants, in violation of Executive Order and state law
July 29, 2020 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison today announced that his office has resolved two enforcement actions against landlords who had denied utilities to their tenants, in violation of Executive Order 20-14 and Minnesota’s landlord-tenant laws.
The State sued Aitkin County landlord David LaPlant in April, alleging that LaPlant failed to respond to his tenants’ repeated requests to fill the propane tank used to heat the home they rented from him, even while temperatures dipped below freezing. The Aitkin County District Court granted the State’s motion for a temporary restraining order and later converted the TRO to a temporary injunction pending the outcome of the litigation. The consent judgment entered by the court requires LaPlant to pay a $1,000 civil penalty and provide a rental credit to the tenants, while also requiring LaPlant to timely supply propane to the tenants and remain in compliance with the Governor’s executive orders protecting tenant rights.
The State sued Lyon County landlord Greg Taylor in July, alleging that Taylor failed to respond to his tenant’s repeated requests to restore electricity to the apartment for a long period of time, causing all of the food in the refrigerator to spoil and rendering the unit uninhabitable and a health hazard due to the odor and presence of spoiled food. The Lyon County District Court entered a consent judgment and order requiring Taylor to provide a rental credit to the tenant, restore electricity in the apartment, maintain the habitability of the apartment, and remain in compliance with the Governor’s executive orders protecting tenant rights.
“Having a safe, affordable roof over your head is essential to living with dignity and respect. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s essential to protecting people’s lives,” Attorney General Ellison said. “The vast majority of landlords and tenants are doing the right thing by each other and their communities during the pandemic, and I thank them for it. My office has received nearly 1,000 housing complaints in the last several months. We’ve taken that opportunity to educate landlords and tenants around Minnesota about their rights and responsibilities during the peacetime emergency. In almost every case, we’ve won voluntarily compliance with Minnesota law and the Governor’s executive orders. But when landlords won’t comply, my office will continue to bring enforcement actions to secure tenants’ rights,” 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, which has the authority to enforce this Executive Order, has fielded nearly 1,000 consumer complaints since this Executive Order took effect. 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.
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 Attorney General’s website.