A Minnesota landlord has been accused of trying to evict a family, including a child with underlying health conditions, as they sheltered in place during the COVID-19.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has filed an enforcement action against Howard Mostad, a landlord in Pine County, whom he accused of entering his tenants' home in Sandstone against their wishes, disconnecting their electricity service, and trying to pressure them to leave the property.
"The tenants were sheltering in place in the home with their four-year-old daughter who has an underlying health condition that makes her especially vulnerable to COVID-19 exposure," a press release from Ellison's office announced.
This is an alleged violation of Executive Order 20-14, which Gov. Tim Walz signed and which suspends evictions during the coronavirus peacetime emergency in Minnesota.
It's also illegal under Minnesota law for a landlord to interrupt or cause the interruption of electricity, heat, gas or water services.
"Now is the time for Minnesotans to turn toward each other, not away from each other," Ellison said.
"Most people, businesses, and landlords are doing the right thing during the crisis. For those landlords who aren’t, let this case serve as a warning to you: if you take illegal actions to force your tenants to vacate their property during this emergency, my office will take swift and strong action against you."
"I encourage any Minnesota who believes they are being wrongly forced out of their home during this emergency to contact my office immediately. We are committed to putting a stop to conduct like this so that Minnesotans can live with the dignity, safety, and respect we all need to navigate our way through this crisis."
The AG's office is seeking penalties of up to $25,000 per violation and restitution and damages for the residents, as well as costs and fees.
While evictions have been suspended, it only delays rent. instead of forgiving it. As such, there is still a lot of pressure on families to keep up with rental payments during the COVID-19 shutdown so as to avoid accruing debt.
While some landlords have agreed to wave rental payments during the crisis, there have been efforts calling on the State Legislature to provide rental assistance that helps lower-income Minnesotans. More details here from MinnPost.