Coauthored by Tammy Schemmel and Karen Kurth
For years, commercial landlords in Hennepin County have filed eviction actions against tenants in material default of leases in Hennepin County Housing Court. Rule 603 of the Minnesota General Rules of Practice allowed the principals of business entities to file eviction actions without counsel and permitted commercial tenants to appear and defend the business entity without counsel in Hennepin County Housing Court. In 2018, the Minnesota Court of Appeals issued a decision holding that the Hennepin County Housing Court lacks authority to hear and determine any matter that is not related to residential rental housing. Likely in an attempt to salvage years of common practice, the Hennepin County District Court Chief Judge issued a Standing Order authorizing the Housing Court to hear civil cases involving commercial property evictions, but also requiring those commercial property evictions to be filed in District Court, not in Housing Court.
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Practically speaking, now commercial landlords that are business entities must hire counsel to file all commercial eviction actions in Hennepin County District Court and tenants must hire counsel to represent them in those eviction actions if they are business entities. The commercial eviction actions are still heard in Housing Court, but all business entities must appear through counsel. As of December 2018, the Summons, which is still issued by the Housing Court, provides “You may come to court and speak for yourself or you may have a lawyer with you to represent you.” This is not true for commercial litigants who operate as business entities and will likely cause confusion until revised by the Housing Court. Commercial landlords and tenants who operate as business entities must appear through counsel. Tenants who operate as business entities are in default if not represented by counsel in an eviction action in Hennepin County and are not permitted to speak for themselves without counsel.
If you are a commercial landlord or a commercial tenant, please speak with an attorney regarding any eviction action to be filed or filed against you.