I am often asked whether a landlord should sue a former tenant in conciliation court to recover unpaid rent and other amounts due and owing under the lease. Typically, a tenant will be evicted, abandon the lease, or otherwise move out, but owe a lot of money to the landlord for unpaid rent and damages to the property beyond ordinary wear and tear.  The short answer is yes, for the following reasons.

A landlord stands to receive some if not all of the money the landlord is owed if they get a judgment against a former tenant. After all, a judgment that you get in conciliation court will (if you transfer or transcribe the judgment from conciliation court to District Court) show up on the tenants credit report and interfere with the tenants ability to get financing. A judgment is good for 10 years and can be renewed if it is not paid up.

I had one client who was a landlord who always sued tenants in conciliation court, transferred the judgments to District Court, and then got a call about five or six years later from the former tenants – because they could not get a mortgage with the landlord's judgment on their record.

Conciliation court is – in most cases – a lot faster and cheaper than bringing a lawsuit against a former tenant in District Court. The filing fee is a lot less and the landlord does not necessarily have to follow the strict rules of evidence and rules of civil procedure in effect in District Court. Depending on the county you are in, a hearing in conciliation court will be scheduled about three – four months from the date that you file a statement of claim and summons – or complaint – in conciliation court. The only way that District Court would be faster is if the defendant did not respond to your complaint and you proceeded by way of default.

The jurisdictional limit – or the most money that you can sue somebody for – in conciliation court is $15,000. Unless the tenant has done extraordinary damage to the property, that amount should be more than enough to cover the amounts of unpaid rent and other damages.

For all of these reasons, I think that bringing a claim in conciliation court against a former tenant is a viable option for all landlords. If you have a claim against a former tenant that exceeds $15,000, you should probably talk to an attorney to decide if conciliation court or District Court is the better way for you to proceed.

Every landlord – tenant situation is unique, and I recommend that landlords talk to an attorney experienced in evictions and landlord tenant law before taking action based on this blog post.  To that end, I invite landlords to give me a call at 763-450-9494 to discuss their unique situation. I have represented many landlords in conciliation court, but  typically do not represent tenants.

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.

Tim is teaching a free seminar called "What Every Landlord Needs to Know about Evictions, Security Deposits, Abandon Tenant Property, and Landlord – Tenant Law." The seminar will be held on Friday, March 11, 2016 from noon – 1 PM at Tim's office, 2140th Avenue, Anoka Minnesota 55303.

In this FREE seminar, we will cover the legal aspects of the landlord-tenant relationship, including how to handle evictions, security deposits, and tenant property remaining in the premises after the tenant moves out.  This seminar is geared for landlords, property managers, and attorneys who represent them.  Please call Tim directly at 763-450-9494 if you have any questions about this seminar.

Space is limited, so advance registration is required. To register, please visit

ATTORNEYS:One standard CLE credit has been applied for.

There were three decisions -- actually, one decision and two orders -- issued by the Minnesota Supreme Court today, Wednesday 10/8/14.  The decision, involving the appeal of a admonition, reversed the discipline and vacated the admonition.  The orders involved a petition for reinstatement and a stipulated public reprimand.

A13-1856, In re Petition for Disciplinary Action Against A.B., a Minnesota Attorney, Panel Case No. 35121.

Summary:  The Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility issued an admonition to A.B. based on his failure to appear at several court hearings in a marital-dissolution case and becauuse he did not inform the district court that he had a limited-scope agreement with his client that excluded court hearings. A panel of the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board affirmed the admonition, concluding that A.B.’s conduct violated Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 8.4(d).

Because the panel’s decision was clearly erroneous, Minnesota Supreme Court reversed the Board’s decision and vacated the admonition.  However, in a footnote, the Court cautioned that vacating an admonition did not mean that "an attorney’s failure to attend a court hearing can never result in discipline," and cited an array of cases as proof.

A13-1548, In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Willie Herman Davis, Jr., a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 298384.

Summary: By order filed on May 8, 2014, the Minnesota Supreme Court suspended respondent Willie Herman Davis, Jr., from the practice of law for a minimum of 120 days, effective 14 days from the date of the filing of the order. Respondent has filed an affidavit seeking reinstatement in which he states that he has complied with the conditions for reinstatement imposed by the court. Respondent's affidavit does not state that respondent has successfully completed the professional responsibility portion of the state bar examination, nor has respondent filed with the Clerk of Appellate Courts proof that he has successfully completed the professional responsibility portion of the state bar examination. The Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility does not oppose the request

For all of these reasons, the Court conditionally reinstated respondent's license to practice law.  The conditions include being on disciplinary probation for 7 years and completing the professional responsibility portion of the bar examination.

A14-1551, In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Timothy Joseph Klima, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 202885.

Summary: The Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility has filed a petition for disciplinary action seeking reciprocal discipline under Rule 12(d), Rules on Lawyers Professional Responsibility (RLPR), based on a decision of the Iowa Supreme Court publicly reprimanding respondent Timothy Joseph Klima. See Iowa Supreme 
Court Attorney Disciplinary Bd. v. Klima, No. 13-1815, Order (Iowa filed Jan. 3, 2014). The Iowa public reprimand was based on respondent assisting another lawyer in his firm in violating the Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct by helping him draft a will in which respondent received a substantial gift and failing to explain to the client the conflict 
inherent in including such a gift in a will drafted by a member of respondent's firm, the implications of the gift, and the need for independent counsel, in violation of Rules 32:1.4(a)(2) and (b) and 32:8.4(a) of the Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct. The Director and respondent have entered into a stipulation in which respondent 
admits the allegations in the petition for disciplinary action and waives his rights under Rule 12(d), RLPR. The parties jointly recommend that the appropriate discipline is a public reprimand, so the Minnesota Supreme Court publicly reprimanded Respondent.

Tim represents attorneys facing professional discipline, and consults with attorneys about whether a particular situation or proposed course of conduct implicates the Rules of Professional Conduct.  When faced with a situation that may implicate the Rules of Professional Conduct, Tim always recommends that an attorney seek an advisory opinion from the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility. 

WARNING: The information contained in this blog post does not constitute legal advice and may not be applicable to your situation.  Reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C.  Also, Tim is licensed only in state and federal courts in Minnesota.  As such, any information provided in this blog post pertains only to those jurisdictions.  Further, 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.