On Tuesday March 2, 2021 , the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on HF450, an MSBA proposal that would provide court-appointed counsel to public housing tenants in breach of lease cases. The legislation is designed to assist the most vulnerable tenants in the most complicated eviction cases. The bill, which is sponsored by lawyer-legislator Rep. Ruth Richardson (D-Mendota Heights), was laid over for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill. The proposed bill reads that: “A defendant in public housing subject to an eviction action under sections 504B.281 to 504B.371 alleging breach of lease under section 504B.171 or 504B.285 who is financially unable to obtain counsel has the right to counsel appointed by the court.
Counsel appointed by the court must (1) have a minimum of two years’ experience handing public housing evictions; (2) have training in handling public housing evictions; or (3) be supervised by an attorney who meets the minimum qualifications under clause (1) or (2). By January 15, 2022, and every year thereafter, the chief judge…shall establish a compensation rate for attorney fees and costs associated with representation under subdivision 1. The compensation to be paid to an attorney for such service rendered to a defendant under this subdivision may not exceed $5,000, exclusive of reimbursement for expenses reasonably incurred, unless payment in excess of that limit is certified by the chief judge of the district as necessary to provide fair compensation for services of an unusual character or duration.
Although most such public housing tenants now qualify for a legal aid attorney without bearing the cost, this bill will help create delay and further subject landlords to abuse of process by tenants.