The Minneapolis City Council unanimously approved a right to counsel ordinance today that ensures legal support for low-income tenants facing eviction, a policy that will help disrupt the eviction cycles that push tenants into unsafe housing or out of housing altogether.
Renters with low incomes often lack legal representation, making it more challenging for them to avoid evictions. Evictions have a lasting impact on renters and make it more difficult for them to secure housing in the future. They also disproportionately impact members of our racially diverse communities. The ordinance establishes a goal of serving renters whose income is less than 200% of the federal poverty guidelines.
“Having access to a lawyer can make the difference between keeping or losing your home,” said City Council President Lisa Bender. “Right to counsel is an important part of a package of policies to keep people safely and stably housed in our city, and one that reaches households that are at high risk for homelessness.”
“If someone is accused of a crime, and can’t afford an attorney, society provides one for them,” said Council Member Cam Gordon. “But when low-income families are confronting being evicted from their homes, there’s no similar guarantee. That has to change. And given the inaction at the state level, this change has to start right here in Minneapolis.”
“We know that the end of the statewide eviction moratorium may result in a wave of people being kicked out of their homes,” said Council Member Jeremiah Ellison. “We already have too many people living on the streets. To prevent homelessness, we need to prevent people from being wrongfully evicted.”
This ordinance builds on a growing body of work the City has advanced to address the challenges facing Minneapolis renters. Earlier this year, the City Council passed a fair notice ordinance to increase housing security and reduce the rate of evictions. It requires property owners to give renters notice at least 14 days before initiating eviction proceedings for non-payment of rent explaining the basis for the eviction action.
The City Council also approved the renter protections ordinance in 2019 that caps security deposits at a maximum of one month’s rent and provides property owners guidelines for screening potential renters. The City also has a Renter-First Housing Policy that affirms the City’s commitment to advancing renter protections and developing new tools to support affordability and stability in rental housing.
By Oct. 12, per the State’s phased ending of the eviction moratorium, all lease terminations and eviction protections will be lifted except for eligible renters with pending COVID-19 rental assistance applications. Renters can apply for COVID-19 rental assistance at renthelpmn.org.