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Gov. Walz orders a halt on evictions during COVID-19 pandemic

An executive order will ban evictions during the peacetime emergency, but it does not provide rental or landlord assistance.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Eviction proceedings in Minnesota will remain suspended throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to one of four executive orders signed by Gov. Tim Walz on Monday.

The governor's directive will offer temporary relief to a wave of panicked renters, particularly those who may have lost jobs in recent days and no longer have a source of income. 

"We ask people who are able to make rent and mortgage to do so. We're asking for moratorium for those who are not," Walz said from the governor's mansion as he self-isolates due to potential exposure. "We can't make this work, have people out on the streets. Not only cruel but counterproductive."

With exceptions for cases where a tenant "seriously endangers the safety of other residents," the executive order bans eviction actions starting Tuesday at 5 p.m., prevents law enforcement from executing writs of recovery, and asks financial institutions to halt foreclosures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The order builds on policies set forth by the court system, which had already suspended eviction proceedings (with some exceptions) for two weeks. Melvin Carter of St. Paul and Jacob Frey of Minneapolis had previously requested their local sheriff's offices stop eviction enforcement actions as well.

The order also comes at a time when state legislators are mulling whether to implement their own moratorium on evictions. Rep. Michael Howard (DFL-Richfield) sponsored a bill last week to halt evictions during a public health emergency, and although the governor's order "essentially conforms" with his legislation, Howard told KARE 11 that his bill would take even bolder action by providing rental assistance.

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"Because the executive order does not cancel rent, it is still essential that we provide rental assistance so that our renters can make rent," Howard said, "and their landlords can make their mortgage."

The Minnesota Multi Housing Association, which represents developers and management companies that care for 400,000 housing units, already issued guidelines over the weekend to stop evictions on renters impacted by the pandemic through May 2020. Emphasizing communication between tenants and landlords, MHA also called on housing providers to waive late fees, offer flexible payment plans and ban new rent increase notifications.

"Our members want to provide assurance that we understand the financial challenges affecting thousands of renters due to COVID-19", MHA President Cecil Smith said in a news release.  "We hope that these guidelines ease renters' fears, provide our government leaders guidance, and illustrate our members willingness to share in the sacrifices related to COVID-19 without further disrupting a fragile rental housing market throughout Minnesota." 

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The state of Minnesota has set up a hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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