Court of Appeals: Minneapolis landlords can’t block tenants who qualify for subsidized housing

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Low-income Minneapolis residents with vouchers who qualify for subsidized housing have received a major boost from the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

The court ruled last week that the Minneapolis City Council did not violate the Minnesota Constitution when it did so He issued a decree in 2017 Which prevented landlords from refusing to accept tenants because they had what are known as Section 8 vouchers. These vouchers guarantee that a tenant will not spend more than 30% of their income on rent, while the remaining funds come from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which is distributed by the Housing Authority. Public in Minneapolis.

“It’s really a big win for tenants,” said Larry McDonough, an attorney for the tenant advocacy organization Homeline of Minnesota, which filed an amicus brief supporting the City Council’s action. McDonough is considered one of the state’s leading experts on housing legislation and has drafted much of the language in laws on the subject.

He noted that the rental housing market is so tight, low-income people can be on a waiting list for five years for a Section 8 voucher. Under the program, a renter with an income of $1,000 would pay a maximum of about $300 a month for rent, and the rest would be subsidized. . Once people get their vouchers, they only have 60 to 120 days to find a unit.

“If landlords are not willing to participate, the chances of losing the voucher become very high,” McDonough said.

As a result, Minneapolis passed a law stating that landlords cannot discriminate against renters with Section 8 vouchers in order to make it easier to find housing without losing benefits. “54 individuals and entities owning multi-tenant properties” sought to undo the City Council’s actions, according to the appeals court.

Attorneys Tamara O’Neil Moreland and Ija K. Kingland, who represents the property owners, declined to comment. They can appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court, although the court has discretion over whether to hear it.

As of 2018, the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority administered about 4,870 vouchers annually, benefiting about 17,000 people, the appeals court said. Most were renter-based, meaning the voucher holder chose the unit, but between 700 and 800 vouchers were attached to a specific rental unit or building.

The council’s ordinance made it illegal to discriminate against an owner or any agent of the owner to use “status in connection with a public assistance program or any condition of a public assistance program.” [as] A “motivating factor” to “refuse to sell, rent or lease, or refuse to offer to sell, rent or lease; or refuse to negotiate the sale, lease or lease of any property.”

Landlords will still be able to screen tenants and can refuse to rent to them, for certain reasons, such as tenants’ rental history or evictions for using a property in the illegal drug trade, McDonough said.

In June 2017, the landlord group challenged the law. Hennepin County Judge Bruce Peterson She ruled that the ordinance violated due process and equal protection rights under the state constitution He issued an injunction preventing him from executing it. The Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s decision on many of the claims and the state Supreme Court’s decision The Court of Appeal confirmed.

After the city renewed its request to dismiss the case, Hennepin County Judge Patrick Rubin dismissed additional claims from the property owners in December 2022 and vacated the injunction that had blocked enforcement of the ordinance. The owners appealed again to the state Court of Appeals.

In a decision written by Justice Jennifer Frisch, joined by Judge Matthew Johnson and Senior Judge Michael Kirk, the Court of Appeals concluded that the ordinance neither took away property rights from the owner nor conflicted with the state human rights law as alleged. By the angel. It also found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in allowing amicus briefs.

Jack Kahn, an attorney who filed the amicus brief on behalf of the Center for Housing Justice in St. Paul and the Poverty and Race Research Action Council, called the appellate ruling “important, because the appellate court rejected the legal theory proposed by the Supreme Court.” Landlords would threaten a wide range of tenant protection laws across the country.”

McDonough said that while the appeals court decision applies only to Minneapolis, he believes state legislation may be introduced this year that would prevent discrimination against any landlord who denies a tenant’s application for a Section 8 voucher.

Randy Forrest 612-201-5522

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