WHAT IS GOING ON WITH EVICTIONS?
Most people paying attention to the news have noticed that there is an “eviction moratorium”. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our nation has seen a confusing patchwork of eviction moratoriums at all levels of government. This has led to uncertainty amongst landlords and tenants alike. This blog post will provide a brief overview of the current landscape here in Minnesota.
On March 23, 2020, Governor Tim Walz issued Executive Order 20-14, which suspended evictions, writs of recovery, and tenancy terminations during the peacetime emergency (“Executive Order 20-14”). The purpose of Executive Order 20-14 was to protect the public health by ensuring that Minnesotans were stably housed during the COVID-19 pandemic. On June 5, 2020, he issued Executive Order 20-73, which clarified the application of Executive Order 20-14.
On July 14, 2020, Walz issued Executive Order 20-79, which rescinded Executive Orders 20-14 and 20-73.
Executive Order 20-79 went into effect on August 4, 2020 and is still in effect as of this writing (most recently extended by operation of Executive Order 21-08 through March 15, 2021). This Executive Order curtails the vast majority of eviction actions against residential tenants, limiting evictions to only the most serious cases. In the event Walz rescinds the peacetime emergency this month, the CDC’s eviction moratorium, extended by President Joe Biden via executive order through March 31, 2021, is the fallback protection for tenants facing eviction.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
In my last blog post, I discussed the tidal wave of wage garnishments that is currently hitting judgment debtors as a direct result of Walz loosening previous restrictions in a recent executive order. Debtors who have not paid their judgment debts off are currently experiencing what this slackening of COVID restrictions feels like. Such will inevitably be the reality for residential tenants who have lapsed on their rent payments and remained in their rental units under the protection of EO 20-79.
Once restrictions on unlawful detainer actions loosen in any meaningful sense, landlords will be bursting through the doors of district courts across the state of Minnesota to evict tenants for nonpayment of rent.
As an attorney that has handled a copious amount of pre-COVID eviction cases, it is deeply unsettling to think how overloaded housing court is going to be when the moratoriums lift. For nearly a year, the steady stream of housing court cases in Minnesota has been corked. Pre-COVID eviction calendars packed courthouses with litigants (especially in Hennepin County) with a high-volume of writs going out the door every day.
New guidelines for sanitizing, social distancing, and virtual hearings have been put in place for every other aspect of case management, stemming the tide of court calendars across the board. Each county has been handling decisions about reopening, allowing in-person vs virtual hearings for certain matters, and calendar capacity differently. Lifting eviction moratoriums will add a new layer of complexity to how each county courthouse operates.
What fresh hell awaits in managing the housing court backlog? How long will it actually take to obtain a writ after filing an unlawful detainer action once the moratoriums lift? It is up for endless speculation, but we will find out soon enough.
Our attorneys provide counsel to landlords and tenants alike in housing court matters. We stay up to date on the latest changes in the law to provide excellent legal advice to our clients.
To learn more about the legal representation and guidance we provide to our clients about housing and other real property matters, please call us at 952-432-3136 or, if you prefer, contact us via e-mail.