Lease Termination For Landlords
Having a guest or tenant overstay their welcome? If you allow someone to live with you, even if they do not pay rent, Minnesota law imposes a month-to-month lease. At Tentinger Law Firm, we can help you terminate the lease and proceed with eviction to remove them. We also help landlords and management companies for landlords in more traditional evictions.
There are multiple reasons for eviction. The most common reason is non-payment of rent. In these circumstances, the tenant has a right to redeem the tenancy by paying the amount owed and the cost of eviction, including the court filing fee.
Another reason for eviction is breach of lease. This might include having unauthorized pets, illegal activities, or destruction of property. We can help determine if the tenant has materially breached the lease and can be evicted.
The final common reason is holdover tenants, which is when a lease has expired, but the person remains in the property. Under Minnesota law you are not required to lease to anyone, but you need to follow the notice requirements to remove them, or the eviction will be dismissed. We can help make sure these requirements are followed and the eviction is successful.
Eviction has many requirements under the law and doing it incorrectly can open you up to liability. A court may dismiss an eviction if the requirements are not followed strictly. Because of that, it is important to obtain an attorney to make sure that you meet these requirements.
Overview of the Eviction Process in Minnesota
This document is intended to provide an overview of the Eviction Process in Minnesota. It is not intended to replace legal advice. The use of this Overview does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Tentinger Law Firm encourages readers to seek legal advice regarding their situations.
The relationship between landlords and tenants is generally governed by Minnesota Statute § 504B. The Office of the Minnesota Attorney General publishes an overview of Landlord / Tenant law.
The importance of a written lease between the landlord and the tenants cannot be overstated. A well-crafted lease protects both parties by defining the terms and conditions to which they agree at the beginning of their relationship. The Tentinger Law Firm can assist landlords in developing their lease terms.
Minnesota law presumes an oral agreement exists if there is no written lease. The terms of oral agreements are notoriously difficult to prove and enforce, particularly regarding a breach of the lease.
Breach and Default
A lease is just like any other contract. When one party fails to perform an obligation under the lease contract, that failure is referred to as a breach of the lease. Obligations under a lease can be a promise to do something, like pay rent on time, or a promise not to do something, like allow adults who are not on the lease to live in the unit.
A breach of a lease contract is also called a default. For general purposes, the terms can be considered synonymous.
Further, Minnesota law provides that every lease includes some basic obligations regardless of whether they are stated in the lease. These obligations or covenants include the duty to refrain from doing or allowing to be done on the premises anything illegal, including illicit drug use or distribution, prostitution, etc. There are also covenants that apply to landlords, including the duty to provide safe and fit housing for human occupancy, and the duty to comply with state and local housing, building, and fire codes.
Most eviction actions in Minnesota involve non-payment of rent; however, a landlord may bring an eviction action for any important breach of the lease. Further, landlords may bring an eviction action for more than one reason.
Minnesota law generally requires written notices to the tenant. The content and the timing of the notices vary according to several factors. Some local governments—counties, cities, etc.—also have notice requirements that prescribe the content and timing of notices to tenants. No brief overview can adequately explain all the notice requirements under every circumstance.
A well-crafted written lease will also contain information about the content and timing of notices.
A prudent landlord will research the notice requirements that apply to the rental property’s location before the lease’s inception.
After any required notice has been delivered timely and the tenant has failed to cure the lease default, the landlord may decide to evict the tenant.
Eviction actions in most Minnesota counties are heard in District Court; Hennepin and Ramsey counties maintain separate Housing Courts due to their high volume of evictions. While evictions are heard in District Court, they are summary proceedings. This means that the question before the court in an eviction is narrow. All the court is concerned about in an eviction action is who gets present possession of the rental unit. Questions of unpaid rent, utilities, damages, etc., must be brought in a separate action, usually in Conciliation Court.
If the tenant fails to appear for the initial hearing, the landlord or their representative will briefly appear before the judge or referee to explain the basis for the eviction action. The judge or referee will generally enter a default judgment for eviction.
Once a judgment for eviction is entered, the Court cannot allow the tenant to remain in possession of the rental premises for more than seven days. However, if the parties agree in a settlement agreement to allow the tenants a longer period to vacate, the Court will generally approve the parties’ agreement.
Minnesota has what is referred to as the “pay and stay” rule. This allows a tenant, in an eviction action where the only reason for the eviction is non-payment of rent, to pay the amounts in arrears and retain possession of the rental premises.
The basic process and approximate timeframe is:
1. File an eviction action.
2. Court Administration sets a date for the first hearing and issues the Summons. This is typically about two weeks after the filing date. However, the COVID pandemic and associated eviction moratoria created a substantial backlog of cases. The backlog varies by
county. Some counties have returned to a normal schedule, while other counties continue to experience substantial delays in scheduling eviction hearings.
3. At least seven days before the first hearing date, the Summons and Eviction Action Complaint must be served on each adult tenant living in the rental unit, regardless of whether they are named on the lease. Personal service is preferred; if personal service cannot be performed, service by posting on the door of the rental unit is allowed. There are rules for how service in an eviction action must be accomplished. Strict compliance with the rules is an absolute requirement.
4. Initial Hearing: For most counties, eviction hearings are currently being held via Zoom. This may change at any time. In most counties, legal aid attorneys are typically available to tenants at both the initial and evidentiary hearings. At the initial hearing, the judge or referee will require the landlord and the tenant to meet to discuss a possible settlement. If the parties cannot agree on a settlement, they will appear before the judge or referee. The Court will ask the tenant if they admit or deny the allegations in the Eviction Action Complaint. If the tenant admits the allegations, the Court will enter an eviction order. What happens more frequently, however, is that the tenant denies the allegations. In that case, the Court will schedule an evidentiary hearing within the next week or two. In rare cases, a tenant—or even a landlord—may request a jury trial.
5. Evidentiary Hearing: Evidentiary hearings (or trial by jury if requested) involve the presentation of evidence to support one’s position. Both the landlord and the tenant must provide testimony, documentation, and other evidence in support of their respective positions. After both sides have made their cases, the judge or referee will typically take the case under advisement. This means that they and their staff will evaluate the arguments and evidence presented, determine the facts, and apply the law. While this process is usually short in eviction cases, the judge or referee has ninety days within which they must issue a decision.
Eviction Ordered. Now what?
An eviction order typically states when the landlord may request the Court issue a Writ of Recovery of Premises and Order to Vacate. This document is commonly called the “Writ,” although several types of writs are issued by courts in different circumstances.
The landlord or their attorney will need to request the Writ from the Court. Court Administration will issue the Writ according to the terms of the Eviction Order. The landlord or their attorney will deliver the Writ to the Sheriff’s Office in the county where the rental premises is located. The Sheriff’s Office will provide additional information regarding the service of the Writ and what comes next.