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Can a landlord evict a tenant for illegal activities?  For example, what can the landlord do if the tenant uses, sells, possesses, or manufactures illegal drugs in the rental unit?  What if the tenant assaults someone, such as another tenant or guest, in the rental unit?  Can the landlord evict a tenant who stores stolen property on the premises?

The short answer is yes, the landlord can bring an eviction action, but only if there is proof that the tenant has engaged in certain illegal activities.  In Minnesota, Minn. Stat. 504B.171, subd. 1 says that neither the landlord or tenant will:

(i) unlawfully allow controlled substances in [the rental] premises or in the common area and curtilage of the premises;
(ii) allow prostitution or prostitution-related activity as defined in section 617.80, subdivision 4, to occur on the premises or in the common area and curtilage of the premises;
(iii) allow the unlawful use or possession of a firearm in violation of section 609.66, subdivision 1a, 609.67, or 624.713, on the premises or in the common area and curtilage of the premises; or
(iv) allow stolen property or property obtained by robbery in those premises or in the common area and curtilage of the premises; and
(2) the common area and curtilage of the premises will not be used by either the landlord or licensor or the tenant or licensee or others acting under the control of either to manufacture, sell, give away, barter, deliver, exchange, distribute, purchase, or possess a controlled substance in violation of any criminal provision of chapter 152.

0Minn. Stat. § 504B.171, subd. 1, emphasis added.

In other words, the activities in bold print are prohibited, and grounds for eviction.  Here is a short list of prohibited activities:

1. controlled substances
2. prostitution or prostitution-related activity
3. unlawful use or possession of a firearm
4. possession of stolen property

These are the only illegal activities that are prohibited by statute, so a tenant cannot be evicted under this statute for engaging in an a crime not on this list.  However, many leases and tenant rules prohibit other conduct.  If a tenant's conduct violates the terms of the lease or rules, that violation is grounds for eviction as well.  For example, if a lease prohibits "assaultive behavior," and the tenant assaults another tenant or guest, that might be grounds for eviction.

I say might because the landlord must prove that the prohibited conduct occurred.  In a civil action such as an eviction, the landlord must prove that prohibited conduct occurred by a preponderance of the evidence.  That means that the landlord must prove that is more likely than not that the prohibited conduct occurred.

What is sufficient proof?  A conviction, either resulting from a guilty plea or trial, will almost certainly be sufficient because the underlying facts will either be admitted or proven beyond a reasonable doubt..  If a tenant is charged with a crime, that may be sufficient because a prosecutor found probable cause to believe that the tenant had committed a crime.  Police reports and complaints for neighbors are good, but may not be sufficient to prove prohibited conduct in and of themselves.

If a landlord suspects that a tenant is engaged in illegal activity, or receives complaints from neighbors, I would recommend calling the police and filing a police report.  Landlords should encourage neighbors who complain about a tenant's behavior to call 9-1-1 instead of reporting the tenant to the landlord later, after the fact.  If neighbors call the police immediately, the police may catch the tenant doing something illegal.

Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C. represents both landlords and tenants in eviction actions, and in other litigation related to the landlord-tenant legal relationship.  Please call (763) 450-9494 to schedule an appointment to discuss your situation today!

WARNING: The information contained in this blog post does not constitute legal advice and may not be applicable to your situation.  Tim is licensed to practice law only in Minnesota, and the information contained in this blog post may not apply to jurisdictions outside of Minnesota.  Further, reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C.  You should always discuss your situation with an attorney before taking any action based on what you may read in this blog.  To that end, please call (763) 450-9494 to set up an appointment to discuss your situation.