Eviction in Minnesota
There is no self-help eviction in Minnesota. The only way to remove a tenant (whether subject to a written or verbal tenancy agreement) is by legal process. In fact, intentional "ouster" or wrongful eviction is not only unavailable, but it carries civil and potential criminal penalties.
Eviction can be obtained by suing in district court to enforce contract remedies. However this is usually prohibitively costly and time consuming. As an alternative under most common circumstances we have Minn.Stat. 504B - the Landlord/Tenant statute, to provide us with a quicker, more convenient process.
Generally speaking, statutory eviction is available when a person holds over after lease termination or after expiration of foreclosure redemption or contract-for-deed cancellation, or if the tenancy is at-will, then after proper notice to quit the premises. Where eviction is sought for nonpayment of rent, the action is considered a demand for rent. As a result, the tenant may pay the rent demanded and avoid the eviction, and in fact the presiding judge may establish a "redemption" price whereby if the tenant pays that price, the lease is reinstated. Therefore if the landlord simply wants the tenant out - without the possibility of reinstatement, other defaults should be alleged. Keep in mind, however, that if the other defaults are not material or substantial, they will not support eviction.
Note that the statutory eviction process is NOT a forum to collect past-due rent or other damages. It is solely to determine right to occupy the premises. Just as the landlord may not seek damages, the tenant may not challenge the landlord's title. Both such claims must be brought separately. Where title is at issue, the tenant should commence an appropriate lawsuit and seek a restraining order to stop the eviction process.
Before evicting it is imperative to review the lease to confirm that the tenant has, in fact, breached the lease agreement, that the landlord has not failed to perform any preconditions to eviction, and that the eviction is not in retaliation for some otherwise lawful act of the tenant. Retaliatory eviction is not only a defense for the tenant, but is an affirmative cause of action that may be asserted agains tthe landlord. It is also essential that the landlord has complied with all applicable obligations under other landlord-tenant statutes.
Eviction is commenced by service/posting an evction summons and complaint upon the tenants, including any others who may be occupying the premises with the tenant. An eviction complaint is form-driven and can be obtained from the county court administrator. Completing the form can be complicated if the facts are complicated. Once completed, the complaint needs to be brought to the court administrator and a filing fee (currently approx. $325) paid. The court administrator will draft an eviction summons and insert the hearing date. The landlord will need to retrieve the summons and arrange for service upon the tenants. (Service of process tends to be from $50 - $75.) The hearing date is by statute set on a short calendar, and service must be obtained promptly. The original summons wtih affidavit of service must be returned to the court administrator prior to the hearing. Corporations and LLC's must retain an attorney to engage the eviction process in many counties. Landlords who are individuals may evict individually, or by propertymanager if a power of attorney is provided.
A statutory eviction is a three-step process. The first court appearance is perfunctory. Generally if the tenant appears and asserts a plausible defense, the case is bound over for trial. If the tenant fails to appear or to assert a legitimate defense, then a writ of recovery is likely to issue immediately (you'll need to request the writ and pay an additional fee - approx. $65), and step-2 is avoided. The judge may impose a redemption price, and s/he may stay the writ of recovery as necessary to permit the tenant to vacate.
Step-2 is the trial. It is set within approximately 2 weeks and but for the short time frame, it is a trial like any other. Rules of civil procedure and evidence apply. The tenant may demand a jury.
After the writ issues if the tenant declines to leave, we have Step 3 - the writ must be brought to the county sheriff for enforcement. Additional fees apply - approx. $120. The sheriff generally will then send a deputy to the property to post a "24-hour notice to vacate". It is the landlord's obligation to follow up. If the tenant has not vacated, then the landlord notifies the sheriff. The sheriff then arranges for a deputy to be present with the landlord at a prescribed time to compel the tenant to leave. The landlord is likely then to be obligated to have resources available to remove the tenant's belongings, inventory the same, and then "safe keep" those belongings for 60 days as required by statute. Disposition of the belongings, and the cost thereof, is also subject to statutory requirements.
Attorney Fees - how expensive is this process?
In addition to court filing fees and the process server's expense, at Steven J. Lodge, PLLC we offer a flat fee billing option for residential statutory evictions and, in some cases, commercial statutory evictions. The fee structure is based on three components of the process: 1) precommencement lease/fact review and Complaint drafting ($250), 2) attendance at step-one hearing ($400), and 3) attendance at step-2 hearing/trial (usually $1750). Fees stated are in addition to out-of-pocket expenses and costs. Because this is litigation, certain restrictions and qualifications apply.
NOTE - fees are subject to periodic change. Call me to discuss options!