Landlords file lawsuit to end Minnesota governor's order banning evictions during pandemic

A lawsuit filed this week seeks to vacate the executive order issued by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz preventing evictions in the state during the pandemic.

The lawsuit, brought by Heights Apartments and Walnut Trails, names Governor Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison. Walz put the order in place in March and Ellison has moved to enforce the order since then.

Attorneys for the rental companies say Walz's order violates the contracts clause in the U.S. Constitution along with the landlord's rights for evictions to be heard in court.

The landlords say Walz's order effectively puts tenants in total control of an indefinite lease, only allowing evictions under certain circumstances -- like when a tenant endangers other residents or causes "significant" damage.

In the lawsuit, Heights Apartments cites issues at a seven-unit building in St. Paul, where one resident is four months behind on their rent and has been running a car and boat repair shops out of the building's parking lot. The City of St. Paul has ordered Heights Apartments to deal with the issue but the tenant has refused to comply.

The landlords say, due to the executive order, they have been unable to take action against the tenant.

Heights Apartments also claims they are facing another issue in Columbia Heights, where a tenant, who also hasn't paid rent since the executive order went into effect, is causing trouble.

The company claims that tenant has an unauthorized person living with them and faced two nuisance letters from the city prior to the pandemic. In December, the city ordered Heights Apartments to terminate the lease and start evictions proceedings.

Despite the city agreeing the tenant must leave, the company says they fear the eviction might not be allowed under the executive order. The lawsuit doesn't explain the process that prevented the landlord from moving forward with the eviction prior to the pandemic, however.

Since putting the order preventing evictions in place, Governor Walz has argued that the moratorium is necessary to prevent mass evictions under the economic hardship that came with the pandemic.

The CDC and Trump administration have also stepped in to protect struggling renters, issuing a directive earlier this month to prevent the eviction of renters facing homelessness who meet other conditions. Officials worry that millions across the country face eviction due to COVID-19 hardships.