ST. PAUL, Minn. – A northern Minnesota landlord is under fire for allegedly trying to force tenants out of their homes during the coronavirus pandemic.
State Attorney General Keith Ellison says Pine County landlord Howard Mostad entered his tenants’ homes in Sandstone, disconnected their electricity, and tried to pressure them to leave while the state is under Governor Walz’ “Stay at Home” order. Ellison says the tenants were sheltering in place with their four-year-old daughter who had an underlying medical condition that makes her especially vulnerable to COVID-19.
“Now is the time for Minnesotans to turn toward each other, not away from each other. Most people, businesses, and landlords are doing the right thing during the crisis. For those landlords who aren’t, let this case serve as a warning to you: if you take illegal actions to force your tenants to vacate their property during this emergency, my office will take swift and strong action against you,” says Ellison. “I encourage any Minnesota who believes they are being wrongly forced out of their home during this emergency to contact my office immediately. We are committed to putting a stop to conduct like this so that Minnesotans can live with the dignity, safety, and respect we all need to navigate our way through this crisis.”
Ellison says under Governor Walz’s Executive order, property owners cannot file eviction actions or terminate residential leases for the duration of the coronavirus peacetime emergency. In addition, Ellison says 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.
The Attorney General’s office 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 costs and fees.
Attorney General Ellison says Minnesotans should report suspected violations of Executive Order 20-14, which suspends evictions 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. Minnesotans can also do so by calling his office at (651) 296-3353 (Metro) or (800) 657-3787 (Greater Minnesota).