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Minneapolis just passed new renter protections. So what's changing?

The city says the new ordinance will ease "financial and screening barriers" for prospective renters.

Things will be changing for the landlords and renters of Minneapolis soon. 

On Friday, the City Council passed an ordinance that will put limits on how property owners screen potential tenants.

Those include capping security deposits at one month's rent, stopping the use of credit scores, and cutting back on landlords' ability to reject applicants because of criminal history or prior evictions.

“The intention of the ordinance is to reduce unnecessary financial and screening barriers that block people who are ready to enter the rental housing market from doing so,” said City Council Member Jeremiah Ellison, per a news release. 

“These barriers have put a strain on families, and iced folks out of housing they may very well be qualified for.”

Here's a closer look at some of the most important parts of the new ordinance, and how they'll work. 

Credit scores

The newly amended ordinance (which you can read in its entirety right here) states that credit scores "typically are not based upon the applicant’s history of rent payment and do not necessarily predict the likelihood of paying rent on a regular and timely basis."

In other words, the city's position is that a person's credit history isn't a valid indicator of what kind of renter they'll be. 

Under the new rules, landlords can't screen applicants with a "credit score by itself" unless it's "directly relevant to fitness as a tenant." 

Additionally, they can only reject an applicant on the basis of credit if the applicant withholds credit history information "in bad faith" (i.e., lies on their application).

Criminal history

There are a number of things landlords will no longer be able to consider when it comes to an applicant's criminal history.

That includes:

  • Any arrest in an inactive case that did not result in conviction
  • Any conviction that has been vacated or expunged
  • Any conviction for a crime that is no longer illegal in Minnesota
  • Any conviction that happened in the juvenile justice system
  • Any misdemeanor conviction older than three years
  • Some felony convictions older than seven years

However, landlords can still reject applicants for murder, kidnapping and criminal sexual conduct convictions (among others) if they were sentenced for those crimes less than 10 years prior, according to the ordinance.

Property owners can also deny applicants with felony convictions involving "the illegal manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance" (regardless of when they were sentenced), or those on the lifetime sex offender registry. 

Past evictions

The ordinance also makes acceptance easier for those who've been evicted before.

While it doesn't mean a total clean slate for renters who have been kicked out of apartments before, landlords can no longer deny an applicant for an eviction older than three years.

What prompted the change?

It's primarily two things: one, the tightening housing market in Minneapolis, and two, the city's attempt to address racial disparities in said housing market.

As the ordinance itself says, "evictions disproportionately affect the city’s lowest income residents in the most racially diverse communities."

The changes have met with vocal opposition from the city's landlords. When the plan was proposed earlier this year, property owners argued it would present "several safety concerns to landlords and their other renters."

The ordinance kicks in on June 1, 2020; however, property owners with 15 dwelling units or fewer will have until Dec. 1, 2020 before it affects them, too.

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