evictions during covid 19

The general eviction moratorium for renters in Minnesota has ended. Landlords were allowed to begin terminating leases for material violations of lease agreements on August 13, 2021. They could begin eviction actions starting September 12, 2021. However, tenants who qualify for COVID-19 emergency rental assistance (ERA) continue to be eligible for eviction protection.

You can apply for rental assistance if you:

  • Have past due rent
  • Have past due utilities
  • Won’t be able to pay upcoming rent

Renters can begin the application process here and landlords can register for the rental assistance program here. You can also call 211 to speak with a RentHelpMN operator about your financial assistance eligibility.

Who is eligible to receive rental assistance?

The eligibility requirements for rental assistance in Minnesota are relatively lenient. People currently receiving unemployment insurance benefits will likely qualify. You may even if qualify for rental assistance if you are currently employed and working.

Some examples of ways in which employed Minnesotans might have been negatively impacted by the pandemic include:

  • Being laid off during the pandemic and forced to take a lower paying job
  • Having your hours cut due to pandemic-related factors
  • You or your spouse had to quit your job to stay home with kids during the pandemic

There are income eligibility requirements for ERA benefits, and you will need to provide:

  • Your landlord’s contact information
  • A copy of your rental or lease agreement
  • Past-due rental statements (proof that you are behind on rent)
  • 2020 tax documents
  • State-issued ID
  • Past-due notices from utility company (if you’re seeking utility assistance)

The proof you’ll need to provide for your application may be different based on your unique financial situation.

I received a court summons for an eviction hearing – what should I do?

You need to attend. Failing to show up in person or for the virtual court hearing will likely result a default ruling in favor of your landlord. However, you don’t necessarily need to face this hearing alone.

Contact the referral counselors at Minnesota Lawyer Referral and Information Service (MNLRIS) to get connected with a tenant lawyer who can represent you.

How much emergency relief money left for renters in Minnesota?

Two rounds of emergency rental assistance (ERA) have been sent to the states by the federal government. The December 2020 appropriations bill included $25 billion of rental assistance. Minnesota received $375 million of those funds. That was followed up by the American Rescue Plan which gave the state nearly $229 million more ERA. Minneapolis–St. Paul was granted an additional $67 million.

In all, Minnesota has received about $671 million of ERA.

Distributing those funds has not been easy. Data from the National Equity Atlas suggests that only about 27 percent of the ERA funds allocated to Minnesota have been distributed. Although that percentage seems low, Minnesota has done a better job than many other states.

Our neighbors North Dakota and South Dakota are sitting at just three percent ERA fund distributions. Even the states that have done the best job of distributing their ERA money, like Texas and California, are only at 47 percent distribution.

Internal numbers from the Minnesota Department of Housing’s dashboard paints a much more optimistic picture. It suggests there have been about 59,000 applicants seeking roughly $373 million of assistance. They claim 50 percent of applicants have been sent payments while another 15 percent have been approved. Roughly 18 percent of applications are currently being processed and only 14 percent have been declined.

That would mean they’ve distributed about $186.5 million, with checks for another $56 million being sent to utilities and landlords.

Ramsey County renters, landlords and utilities have requested about $73 million of ERA funds and Hennepin County renters, landlords and utilities have requested about $126 million as of November 4, 2021.

Isn’t the risk for eviction from COVID-19 over?

Census data released in August 2021 suggests 1.2 million households in the United States were facing eviction by October 2021. Of the 2.8 million families that have sought rental assistance aid, only about half a million have qualified for the program. The lack of previously established processes to handle rental aid disbursement on this scale led to bottle necks in many states. About 1.5 million applicants across the country haven’t had their applications officially rejected but are instead in limbo. Only about 700,000 applicants were rejected outright.

Maybe the biggest challenge facing ERA distribution is public awareness. Estimates suggest more than half of households that would be eligible to receive rental assistance don’t know about the program or haven’t applied.

If you are having trouble paying your rent or utilities or your landlord has sent you an eviction notice, you should apply for ERA. At the very least you can’t be evicted while your application is pending.

How can I get legal assistance if I’ve been served an eviction notice?

Minneapolis–St. Paul metro area residents should consider contacting the Minnesota Lawyer Referral and Information Service (MNLRIS). Our referral counselors can help you schedule a free consultation with an eviction lawyer near you who can explain your options.

Call (612) 752-6699 to speak with a referral counselor today.