Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced Friday that his office has taken legal action against Pine County landlord Howard Mostad.
According to Ellison's Office, Mostad violated Executive Order 20-14 and Minnesota’s landlord-tenant laws by entering his tenants’ home in Sandstone against their wishes, disconnecting their electricity service, and attempting to pressure them to vacate the property.
The complaint filed in court says that the family signed a six-month lease with Mostad that began on October 1, 2019, and would convert to a month-to-month lease beginning on April 1, 2020. On March 4, Mostad sent the family written notice that they now had to vacate the property by April 1. The family was unable to find a new residence to rent due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.
On April 2, Mostad allegedly tried to show the property to new tenants. The family refused, voicing concerns over letting new people into the home since their 4-year-old daughter suffers a pre-existing medical condition that makes her vulnerable to the virus. The complaint went onto say that Mostad pushed his way into the home and removed multiple breakers from the boiler room fuse box, leaving the family without electricity, heat, or hot water.
During a conversation with Assistant Attorney General Katherine Kelly on April 3, Mostad said that he removed the tenants’ electrical panel because they were behind on their electricity bill. The complaint went onto say that Mostad ended his call with Kelly by calling her a "bitch" and hanging up the phone. In a conversation with The Guardian, Mostad said the family wasn't behind on their rent, but he wanted to sell the Sandstone property.
Executive Order 20-14 prohibits property owners from filing eviction actions or terminating residential leases for the duration of the COVID-19 peacetime emergency. It is illegal under Minnesota’s landlord-tenant laws for a landlord to interrupt or cause the interruption of electricity, heat, gas, or water services to a tenant, and the disconnection of such services is considered a constructive eviction.
On Tuesday, April 7, the Pine County District Court ordered Mostad to restore power to the Sandstone property within 24 hours.
Mostad will appear in a Pine County Court at 9 a.m. on Monday, April 13.
The Attorney General’s office is seeking permanent injunctive relief, civil penalties of up to $25,000 per violation, restitution for the residents, damages under Minnesota’s landlord-tenant laws, and its costs and fees, pursuant to Minnesota Statutes Section 8.31.