AG Ellison sues Apple Valley landlord for evicting tenant during pandemic

The landlord allegedly forced her tenants to move out so she could sell her townhouse, which is a violation of a COVID-19 executive order.
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Keith Ellison

Keith Ellison

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has filed a lawsuit against another landlord for allegedly forcing a tenant to move out during the pandemic. 

Ellison announced the lawsuit against Dakota County landlord Johanna Wentzlaff on Wednesday, saying Wentzlaff attempted to violate one of Gov. Tim Walz's COVID-19 executive orders when she forced her tenant to move out of the Apple Valley townhome she owns and falsely claimed she or her family member needed to move into her rental property.

Instead, she directed her real estate agent to kick her tenants out with days notice in order to put her property on the market, Ellison claims. Wentzlaff's tenants reported her to Ellison's office. 

Under Gov. Tim Walz's Executive Order 20-79, tenants can't be evicted unless it meets one of a few exemptions, including if a property owner or their family need to live there. 

“Most landlords are complying with the governor’s orders to allow tenants to remain housed during the peacetime emergency, and I thank them for it: they’re doing their part to keep our fellow Minnesotans safe from a deadly virus that has already killed nearly a half-million Americans,” Ellison said in a statement. “The governor has reasonably modified the orders over time to create some common-sense exceptions, but I will not allow anyone to take advantage of those exemptions. 

"This case should serve as a warning to any landlord even thinking about it: if you falsely claim an exemption applies in an effort to force your tenants out during this emergency, my office will not hesitate to take action against you," Ellison added.

Ellison's office is seeking permanent injunctive relief to prevent Wentzlaff from violating the order or any future orders, civil penalties of up to $25,000 per violation, restitution for the tenants, as well as copies and fees. 

This lawsuit marks the eight enforcement actions Ellison's office has taken against landlords for violating Executive Order 20-79 and the previous eviction-related executive order. Ellison's office has settled six of them. 

If you are a tenant who believes their landlord violated an executive order, you can fill out a form on the Attorney General's website here or report it by calling 651-296-3353 or 800-657-3787. 

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