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Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison says his office will refund 877 tenants of a Willmar-based landlord after they had to pay an illegal utility surcharge.

According to a Thursday announcement from Ellison, Suite Liv’n has reached a settlement with the Attorney General’s Office that includes a refund for tenants totaling between $50,000 and $60,000.

Suite Liv’n manages multi-unit apartment buildings in Marshall, Willmar, New London and Spicer. Because Suite Liv’n used a single utility meter to bill tenants, they are required under Minnesota law to inform tenants of the building’s total utility cost and put an equitable way to distribute the costs in writing, according to Ellison’s office.

But Suite Liv’n told tenants they were introducing an additional monthly utility fee without taking those steps.

The Special Outreach and Protection Unit of the Attorney General’s Office investigated Suite Liv’n after Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid referred the office to the case.

The unit told Suite Liv’n that the fees were not in compliance with the law, but they imposed the fee in December, including on tenants who were not supposed to have utility costs included in their rent.

The fees were as high as $60 to $70 per household. Suite Liv’n also charged tenants who did not pay the surcharge late fees.

As part of the settlement, Suite Liv’n will pay back all utility fees and late fees. Suite Liv’n will face a $45,000 civil penalty if they do not abide by Minnesota laws surrounding utility bills in the future. 

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