On July 8, 2020 the City Council unanimously approved a new “renters protection” ordinance that will go into effect on March 1, 2021. We have already written about some of the changes in the screening process that mirror the Minneapolis ordinance that went into affect on June 1. You can read those details here. The more challenging and frustrating part of this new St. Paul ordinance is the section called Just Cause. This restricts a landlord’s ability to ask a tenant to vacate. The landlord can only give notice to vacate if the tenant or situation falls into one of ten just causes, which means that is will become very difficult to remove tenants short of a full eviction.
[Note that nothing in this post should be taken as legal advice. Please get proper legal help in this evolving area. These are just our ideas and opinions]
The ordinance explicitly allows the tenants may use “No Just Cause” as a defense against a landlord giving them notice to move out. The landlord will need to be very careful and have full documentation for giving notice and should be prepared to go to court.
Here is the full list of just cause notices (with my notes or highlights in red):
Sec. 193.05. Just cause notice for tenants.
(a) Just cause notice. A landlord may not issue a notice terminating tenancy unless the landlord is able to establish one or more of the following grounds:
(1) Non-payment of rent. The tenant fails to Cure the Deficiency after receiving a non-payment notice from the landlord, and the landlord does not pursue a valid non-payment eviction action under Minn. Stat. § 504B.291, subd. 1(a), but decides to terminate tenancy at the end of the lease.
(2) Repeated late payment of rent. The tenant repeatedly makes late payments of rent, no fewer than five times in a 12-month period. The landlord must provide the tenant with notice following a late payment that a subsequent late payment may be grounds for Termination of Tenancy. If the tenant continues to make a late payment on no fewer than five occasions per year, the landlord must give the tenant notice to vacate at least equal to the notice period outlined in the original lease agreement terms.
(3) Material non-compliance. After receiving a written notice to cease from the landlord, the tenant continues, or fails to Cure the Deficiency, to a material breach of the lease. This subsection shall not diminish the rights of a landlord, if any, to terminate a lease for actions permitted under Minn. Stat. § 504B.281, et seq. Key point here is that the “tenant fails to Cure the Deficiency”. What if a tenant is smoking in their unit? Landlord sends a written notice to cease. Tenant is caught again smoking; is that a new case that needs to be cured or can you use that as fail to cure the deficiency? Make sure you have written documented proof including dates and times of violations and copies of all communications with tenants to cure.
(4) Refusal to renew. The tenant refuses to renew or extend the lease after the landlord requests in writing that the tenant do so. The landlord shall give the tenant notice to vacate at least equal to the notice period outlined in the original lease agreement terms following the tenant’s refusal to renew or extend the lease. This subsection shall in no way diminish the fifteen to thirty day notice period as required by Minn. Stat. 504B.145 for leases with automatic renewal provisions. Uncertain how this will work. I recommend that you start your renewal process well in advance of your notice period and then have a deadline that if missed by tenant can be grounds for notice to vacate.
(5) Occupancy by property owner or Family Member. The property owner, in good faith, seeks to recover possession of the dwelling unit so that the property owner or a Family Member may occupy the unit as that person’s principal residence. The property owner or Family Member must move into the unit within 90 days from the tenant’s vacation. If a Substantially Equivalent Replacement Unit is vacant and available, that unit must be made available to the tenant at a Substantially Similar Rental Rate as the tenant’s current lease.
(6) Building demolishment and dwelling unit conversion. The landlord (i) elects to demolish the building, convert it to a cooperative provided the landlord complies with the provisions of Minn. Stat. Ch. 515B, or convert it to nonresidential use; provided that, the landlord must obtain a permit necessary to demolish or change the use before terminating any tenancy, or (ii) the landlord seeks, in good faith, to recover the unit to sell it in accordance with a condominium conversion, provided the landlord complies with the provisions of Minn. Stat. Ch. 515B, or (iii) the dwelling unit is being converted to a unit subsidized under a local, state or federal housing program and the tenant does not qualify to rent the unit under that program.
(7) Rehab and renovation. The landlord seeks, in good faith, to recover possession of the dwelling unit that will render the unit uninhabitable for the duration of the rehabilitation or renovation. The landlord must provide 90 days’ written notice to the tenant, and shall provide Relocation Assistance to the tenant upon delivery of the written notice. If a Substantially Equivalent Replacement Unit is vacant and available in the building, that unit may be made available to the tenant at a Substantially Similar Rental Rate as the tenant’s current lease. This happens often when a landlord wants to have a tenant vacate the property to renovate and then sell property as a retail transaction. Unfortunately, the “Relocation Assistance” is defined as: Relocation Assistance shall mean a payment in an amount equal to three times the rental housing affordability limit at sixty (60) percent of Area Median Income for the Twin Cities metro area as published by the Metropolitan Council. Annually updated payments calculations can be located on the met council websites Affordability Limits for Ownership and Rental Housing: https://metrocouncil.org/ A landlords should expect to be required to pay about $4000-5000 to the tenant in Relocation Assistance.
(8) Complying with a government order to vacate. The landlord is complying with a government agency’s order to vacate, order to abate, or any other order that necessitates the vacating of the dwelling unit as a result of a violation of Saint Paul city codes or any other provision of law. The landlord shall provide Relocation Assistance to the tenant upon delivery of the written notice. If a Substantially Equivalent Replacement Unit is vacant and available in the building, that unit may be made available to the tenant at a Substantially Similar Rental Rate as the tenant’s current lease.
(9) Occupancy conditioned on employment. The tenant’s occupancy is conditioned upon employment on the property and the employment relationship is terminated.
(10) Exceeding occupancy. Tenant exceeds the occupancy standards under City of Saint Paul Code 34.13, except for that no tenant may be evicted, denied a continuing tenancy, or denied a renewal of a lease on the basis of familial status commenced during the tenancy unless one year has elapsed from the commencement of the familial status and the landlord has given the tenant six months prior notice in writing, except in case of nonpayment of rent, damage to the premises, disturbance of other tenants, or other breach of the lease. Any provision, whether oral or written, of any lease or other agreement, whereby any provision of this section is waived by a tenant, is contrary to public policy and void. Landlords need to be careful in this section as to not violate any fair housing laws as it relates to familial status.
(b) Landlord responsibilities. All residential tenant leases, except for state licensed residential facilities and subject to all preemptory state and federal laws, shall include the following Just Cause Notice language:
The landlord under this lease shall not unilaterally terminate or attempt to terminate the tenancy of any tenant unless the landlord can prove in court that Just Cause exists. The reasons for Termination of Tenancy listed in the City of Saint Paul’s Just Cause Notice (Sec. 193.05), and no others, shall constitute Just Cause under this provision.
(c) Application. This section applies to every lease, written or oral.
(d) Notice requirements. With any termination notices required by law, landlords terminating any tenancy protected by this Chapter shall advise the affected tenant or tenants in writing of the reasons for the termination and the facts in support of those reasons. Landlords will be required to state their just cause reason in the notice to vacate letter.
Enforcement is also outlined in the ordinance which can include civil damages for relocation assistance, attorney’s fees, Administrative fines and I would assume (although it is not explicitly stated) revocation or injunction against your rental license.
No longer can a landlord give a notice to vacate to a tenant for their own business or personal reason (such as the tenant simply being difficult to deal with). I recommend that any landlord in St. Paul review this new ordinance and work with their attorney to create processes to reduce your risk and liability.