Reviewed in M. Levin, Digest of Selected Articles, 38 Real Est. L. J. 510 (Spring 2010):
Unlawful detainer (summary eviction) laws often lull landlords, tenants, and lawyers into thinking that all eviction cases are simple matters of whether the tenant paid the rent or breached the lease or failed to vacate in a timely manner. This article challenges this notion by examining the complex mixture of potentially applicable laws: state statutes governing evictions and general landlord-tenant relations, the common law of property and contracts, municipal ordinances, and a variety of potentially applicable federal laws governing fair housing and public and subsidized housing programs. While this article focuses on applications of the law in Minnesota, it is representative of how the confluence of several legal sources makes the areas of eviction and general landlord-tenant law confusing and challenging.
This article is presented as a follow-up to a 2001 article by the same author that focused on state landlord and tenant statutes and common law. In this article, the author addresses an exhaustive range of matters relevant to defenses in eviction proceedings. I have chosen not to elaborate here, but merely to provide a representative list of topics addressed: situations of uncertainty regarding the existence of a landlord and tenant relationship, special rules regarding public and subsidized housing, jurisdictional issues, stay of evictions pending other litigation, satisfying technical preconditions to recovery of the property, special rules regarding tenants who are in military service, covenants of habitability, rental licenses, rent issues (e.g. conditions precedent, notices regarding rent increases, late fees, waiver, accepting partial payments, amount due, utilities and other charges), tenant redemption rights,
violation of tenant privacy and security, illegal activity, potential application of the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act, whether multiple tenants have joint liability, rights and responsibilities regarding foreclosed properties, retaliatory evictions, issues regarding notices, discrimination, manufactured home park lots, potential application of the Uniform Relocation Act, specific issues regarding breach of lease defenses (e.g. no right of entry clause, implied waiver or modification of a lease term, unilateral modification, waiver of breaches by acceptance of rent, reasonable accommodation of disabilities, unconscionability,
materiality of breach, cure of lease violations, tenant guest and trespass
rules, eviction for emergency police calls, evicting one tenant among others, combining actions for nonpayment of rent and lease violations), post trial issues (e.g. motions for costs, disbursements, and attorney fees), and appeals.
An eviction case can be as simple as determining whether the tenant paid the rent. This is far too narrow a view, however, in many cases. One needs to fully appreciate the complex mix of potentially related laws to properly evaluate the rights of landlords and tenants.
Wait a Minute! Residential Eviction Defense in 2009 Still is Much More than Did You Pay the Rent?, 35 William Mitchell Law Review 762 (2009), on Westlaw at 35 WMLR 762