Updated: 3:45 p.m.
The COVID-19 pandemic is dragging some families into a financial hole. Job loss means income loss, and one of the biggest costs for a lot of families is the monthly rent.
With money tighter, what rights and protections do tenants have? What rights do property owners have? And has state help during the pandemic — like a ban on evictions and a $100 million housing assistance program — made the situation more manageable?
Two experts in the housing industry joined the program to about the pandemic’s impact on tenants and landlords.
And Chris Farrell, MPR’s senior economics contributor, joined the show to talk about the latest economic news.
Gov. Tim Walz’s order halting evictions was updated at the beginning of August to allow for evictions under certain circumstances — including if the resident poses a threat to the safety of others or if they significantly damage the property.
What constitutes a safety threat is not clear though and has led to some confusion among landlords, said Cecil Smith, president and CEO of Minnesota Multi Housing Association.
The changes to the order also allow property owners to terminate or not renew a lease if the property owner or a family member needs to move into the home.
In any case, property owners need to give written notice to tenants at least seven days before they file an action to evict. In most other circumstances, residents cannot be evicted while the order is in place. However, the order does not eliminate the need to pay rent.
Even if they aren’t able to keep up with payments now, renters and homeowners will eventually need to pay all of the rent or mortgage payments they owe, said Katherine Kelly, an assistant attorney general for the state of Minnesota.
Landlords should work with tenants to find resources and make a payment plan, Smith said.
The order will remain in effect until at least Sept. 11 — when the declared peacetime emergency is set to end — but could be extended, as it has been several times this year.
There’s concern that the end of the moratorium will result in a wave of evictions, something housing advocates hope to avoid with the help of additional aid.
A new $100 million housing assistance program from the federal CARES Act became available Monday. The money is intended for Minnesotans who are financially struggling from COVID-19 and meet certain income requirements. Applicants can call 211 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. — staff speaking multiple languages will be on hand.
They can also text 211 and type “MNRENT,” or go online to 211unitedway.org. Once the process begins, applicants can track their status online. The fund can help pay housing costs like rent, mortgage, lot fees in manufactured home parks, and utility payments.
Kelly, Smith and a few callers provided several other resources for renters and landlords who are struggling financially.
Small Sums: An organization that helps people experiencing homelessness or struggling to pay rent with expenses or supplies they may need when starting a new job.
HOME Line: A nonprofit providing legal and educational resources for tenants.
The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office: Tenants who are being asked to leave their residence during the peacetime emergency can file a complaint with the office.
Minnesota Housing: A collection of state resources for finding and paying for housing.
Katherine Kelly is an assistant attorney general for the state of Minnesota.
Cecil Smith is president and CEO of Minnesota Multi Housing Association, a trade organization that represents about 1,800 of the state’s landlords.
Chris Farrell is a senior economics contributor for MPR News.
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