Renters rights protection legislation closer to becoming law after passing vote

A collection of bills that seek to further clarify and strengthen a renting tenants rights is closer to becoming law after passing the House of Representatives late Wednesday.

Known as the Residential Landlord and Tenant Law, H.F. 917 sponsored by Rep. Esther Agbaje (DFL-Minneapolis), would make changes to various tenants rights provisions currently existing, including amending landlord and tenants rights related to lease terminations, evictions and eviction expungement. It also updates provisions related to housing discrimination.

Seeking to bolster a tenants rights, the new law would prohibit discrimination against an individual who is currently receiving public assistance, adding to the current protections already in law such as race, religion, sex and marital status. It also bars a real estate broker or agent from doing the same.

To further transparency in pricing, the bill will require a landlord to disclose all non-optional fees in the lease agreement, with a sum total of rent – including all non-optional fees such as utility charges, related utility fees, and charges under section 504B.215 – described as the "Total Monthly Payment" and listed on the first page of a lease.

Providing further privacy for tenants, the bill restricts landlord entry into a residential unit between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., while also clarifying that notice must be at least 24 hours before entry.

During cold months, updated provisions will require a landlord to provide heat in a residential tenancy at a minimum temperature of 68 degrees when it's cooler than 60 degrees outside, from Oct. 1 to April 30.

Evictions and animals

The bill would also add a provision to protect animals, and a remedy for expungement once an eviction has been served.

A landlord will no longer be able to refuse to rent a unit or require a current renter to declaw or devocalize their animal. They also won’t be able to advertise in a way that would discourage a potential renter from renting the unit who has not declawed or devocalized their pets. A $1,000 violation could be applicable to those who don’t adhere to the law.

Should a tenant be served with an eviction notice, a landlord will now be able to serve it via text and email, as well as, in person.

However, eviction records will now have new avenues to be expunged, including when the tenant prevails on the merits of the case, the court dismisses the landlord’s complaint, the parties agreed to an expungement, the eviction was ordered three years prior to the date the expungement was filed, or if the case settles and terms of the settlement have been fulfilled.

The bill was approved 70-57 on Wednesday, while its companion S.F. 1298 awaits a Senate Floor vote before the measures could be signed into law by Governor Tim Walz.