PHA Gave Adequate Notice of Eviction
Facts: Two days after being refused entry into a resident’s unit, a site manager mailed the resident a letter informing him that his refusal to consent to entry for inspection and repairs violated his lease. The resident replied with a letter suggesting that actual ownership of the building was in doubt because of fraud relating to its purchase.
The manager then wrote and hand-delivered a letter informing the resident that his lease was terminated and that he had until March 31 to vacate the unit under the lease’s 60-day notice provision.
The resident refused to vacate. The district court conducted a bench trial at which the resident didn’t deny receiving the notice to vacate. He maintained that the lease was invalid because it was forged. The district court found that the resident was given proper notice and that the eviction was lawful regardless of whether the lease was valid. The resident appealed.
Ruling: The Minnesota appeals court upheld the lower court’s decision.
Reasoning: The court didn’t give merit to the resident’s argument that the lease was unenforceable as a forgery. Even assuming that the lease was invalid, the court stated that the resident would be entitled to no relief from the eviction. Indeed, he would have more protection under the lease, which has a 60-day notice provision, than he’d have without a lease. That’s because continued occupancy under an invalid lease creates a tenancy at will. And under Minnesota law, a tenancy at will can be terminated by either party by written notice. The notice of termination must be “at least as long as the interval between the time rent is due.” Because the allegedly invalid lease here was monthly, the notice period was only 30 days. The 60-day notice to vacate was therefore more than adequate.
Also, the resident vaguely argued that his letter questioning the building’s ownership is what prompted his eviction, rendering it retaliatory. But he never made a retaliation case when he argued in the district court. The court added that a retaliation argument would appear to have no merit here in any event. Under state law, a resident can depend on retaliation as a defense in an eviction proceeding when he can prove that his occupancy was terminated because he either (1) attempted to enforce his rights under a lease, contract, or law; or (2) reported a health, safety, or building code violation. The court concluded that the resident’s challenge to the building’s ownership was neither an attempt to enforce his rights under a lease nor a report of a health, safety, or building code violation.
- Washington County HRA v. Huang, April 2016