Committee Summary: House Housing Finance and Policy, March 3

Reporting by Lolla Nur, Freelance Community Journalist and UpTake Fellow

The House Housing Finance and Policy Committee met on Mar. 3, 2022 to discuss HF398, HF399HF400 and HF835 – all bills authored by Rep. Kaohly Vang Her (DFL 64A). All four bills would create policy changes to Minnesota’s landlord-tenant laws, particularly tenant eviction notice rights, privacy rights, expungement of eviction records if the case is settled or dismissed, and ensuring landlord transparency on non-obligatory renter fees. HF835 was laid over after discussion and testimony, and the other three bills were passed and re-referred to the General Register.

Testifiers included: 

  • Leah DeGrazia, a housing attorney with nonprofit HOME Line 
  • Shana Tomenes, Housing Justice Center
  • Nancy Etzwiler, Volunteer Lawyers Network
  • Erica Staab, HOPE Cente

Rep. Tama Theis (R 14A) expressed skepticism and concern about the bills, stating that she is “leery about how these bills will affect the market” by burdening landlords who decide they may no longer want to rent their properties with increased regulation.

Rep. Her opened by stating that “housing is one of the most important issues of our time. It sits at the intersections of disparities in economics, wealth, education, jobs and health.” She mentioned that landlords who provide fair notice to tenants will not be impacted by any of the bills, and that this legislation is for tenants who are impacted by an “imbalance of power” in the landlord-tenant dynamic.

Some important facts:

  • HF835 would ban housing discrimination based on public assistance. This is already in law in 17 states nationwide, according to Rep. Her.
  • Expungement Reform – HF835 also gives tenants protection from landlords who have not adopted best business practices by requiring 14-day notice before filing for eviction. 
  • Prior to COVID19, 90% of evictions in Minnesota were for nonpayment of rent. This is important because once an eviction is filed, it goes on a tenant’s record unless expunged. Minnesota law currently creates no obligation on landlords to warn tenants prior to filing an eviction in court and creating a public record. (Leah DeGrazia, a housing attorney with nonprofit HOME Line and a testifier on all the bills).
  • Most states require a pre-eviction filing notice. Minnesota is just one of four states which currently does not. This notice would allow a tenant to pay money owed, seek emergency financial aid or decide to move, rather than face eviction on their record.
  • Eviction records begin when a landlord files a case, not when a case is proven. Even if a tenant amicably settles with the landlord or no hearing occurs, the eviction is still on their record. 
  • HF398 expands the definition of housing emergencies that a tenant could request emergency repairs for in court if the landlord is nonresponsive, such as loss of a working fridge, a serious infestation, loss of an elevator or AC – if promised in the lease.
  • HF 399 would prohibit landlords from charging non-optional fees for non-optional services. All non-optional costs must be incorporated in the rent upfront, including service and administrative costs. 
  • HF399 also clarifies requirements that a landlord must meet to enter a tenant home without permission. Currently, a landlord may give subjective reasonable notice before entering a property. 
  • HF400 allows renters to break their lease with ample notice and move into a medical care facility, if a physician certified condition – illness or disability – makes living in their current housing a health issue. There’s no explicit protection in law now that lets them break their lease.

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