With rent due May 1, here's what Minnesota renters need to know about their rights

With May 1 just over a week away, renters are wondering about their rights if they cannot pay rent.

Under state law, residents cannot be evicted for failing to pay rent in April or May, and Mike Vraa, the managing attorney at Homeline, says between 10 and 30 percent of tenants didn’t pay rent on April 1.

Homeline is a nonprofit for tenant rights. The organization wants tenants to know a few things about the COVID-19 pandemic and how it relates to their housing.

First, landlords cannot insist on tenants using their government stimulus check to pay rent. While the landlord can ask for it, it does not mean they have a right to the money.

Eventually, tenants will have to pay their landlord for April and May’s rent, however.

“The Governor’s order is a moratorium on evictions. It says the landlord can’t really file an eviction right now for nonpayment of rent or for really pretty much any other reason, but it also says that the rent is still due. It doesn’t say that the tenant doesn’t owe the rent, so eventually, the tenant is going to have to pay the rent,” Vraa said.

The moratorium in Minnesota lasts until May 13 and it could be extended. Whenever it is lifted, however, landlords will be able to evict tenants for previously missed payments.

“The short answer is, today, as things are as we know them, yes, the landlord could file an eviction for nonpayment of April and May’s rent as soon as the moratorium is lifted.

Vraa says the federal CARES Act extends moratoriums on evictions to July 25, but only for those who qualify.

His advice to renters right now is to check to see if your city has rent assistance programs and keep an open dialogue with your landlord to see if you can work out a plan where you pay portions of the rent as you’re able.

“I think those tenants are more likely to be able to work something out with the landlord where they don’t have an eviction filed the day evictions are OK again,” Vraa added.