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.



Thank you for your sharing with us. Landlord have a right to sue a former tenant in conciliation court.

06/01/2016 7:07am

Thanks Timothy for such a helpful advice in your article. It is good to understand the rules before having a tenant so that these issues will be minimized and there will be less chances of the conflicts.


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