COVID-19 Update: Help for manufactured home park residents!


COVID-19 Update: Help for manufactured home park residents!

In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the U.S economy has suffered major disruptions. Businesses across the U.S. have faced closures, reduced operations, and increased demand for sick leave and the ability to work from home. People are subject to quarantines and shelter-in-place orders and are struggling with the supply for key consumer goods, which has led to panic buying sprees. Students have seen schools and campuses closed and their school years shortened or changed to at-home online instruction. Medical personnel and health care systems face critically low inventories of key protective equipment and medical devices as requests for health services rise.

Federal, state and local governments have been responding in a variety of ways. Congress passed and the President signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. It is noted as the largest single relief package in American history totalling $2 trillion in economic stimulus. Governor Tim Walz declared a Peacetime Emergency and issued an executive order suspending evictions. Even private entities have taken unprecedented steps, such as Minnesota Multi Housing Association issuing guidelines to Minnesota rental housing providers that call upon them to halt evictions, waive late fees, offer flexible payment plans, and cease new rent increases through May 31. With Minnesota’s Attorney General Keith Ellison urging renters to report any violations of these emergency actions to his office (Tenant Eviction Complaint Form).

All of these steps are important and beneficial but may be hard to follow and somewhat confusing. This resource was developed to answer some common questions.

Can my park owner evict me?

No. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz declared a Peacetime Emergency. Evictions in Minnesota are on pause during this emergency. Your landlord can’t end your lease or file an eviction case against you right now. The sheriff can’t come remove you from your home. The eviction moratorium does apply to manufactured home park lot rentals. This means that a park can’t evict you for not paying your lot rent.

In addition, the CARES Act provides 120 days of eviction relief for tenants in federally-backed housing. Specifically, you may not be served with an eviction notice until July 25, 2020 and the notice must give you 30 days to leave the property.

During the 120-day eviction moratorium, your landlord may not charge you late fees, penalties, or other charges for paying your rent late. It's important to note that the eviction moratorium does not relieve you of your obligation to pay your rent. It merely forbids your landlord from evicting you during that period for late payment.

The federal government’s temporary moratorium on eviction filings pertains to any rental housing that is:

  • Covered under section 41411 of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (34 U.S.C. 12491(a); or
  • Covered by the rural housing voucher program under section 542 of the Housing Act of 1949 (42 U.S.C. 1490r); or
  • Has a Federally backed mortgage or multifamily mortgage loan.

Can my park owner evict me without going to court?

No. A park owner cannot evict you. Only a judge can. Alandlord must go to court first and follow the law for evictions. A landlord cannot lock you out or do something else to make you leave. You can learn more about the eviction process for manufactured home parks here: https://www.ag.state.mn.us/Consumer/Handbooks/HomeParks/CH06.asp

If you believe your rights are being violated and you need legal help, begin by filling out this questionnaire by Law Help MN: https://www.lawhelpmn.org/

Can my manufactured home still be foreclosed on (or, to use the correct term, repossessed)?
Yes. Under Gov. Walz’s executive order, the suspension of home foreclosures does not yet apply to manufactured homes. This means if you are still buying the home, the seller can start a repossession action to take it back and force you out. This is true if you are buying the home from the manufactured home park or somewhere else.

If you are buying your home from the park and can only pay for the home payment and not the rent, write clearly on your payment that the money is for the home payment and not the lot rent. If you pay in cash, give them a letter along with your payment saying that. Make sure it is on your receipt from them too.

If you are buying your home from a party other than the park reach out to your loan servicer as soon as possible, ask for the loss mitigation department, and discuss your options. You can find the number to call on your mortgage bill.

A network of nonprofit Homeownership Advisors offers nonbiased advice to homeowners in Minnesota to help them keep their homes. Find a Homeownership Advisor offering services in your area.

Note: In order to repossess a manufactured home, a seller has to give 30 days’ notice before filing in court.

What should I do if I cannot pay my rent?

Even though evictions are suspended, rent is still due. Here is some general advice:

  • If you are able to, pay your rent and get a receipt.
  • If you can only pay a portion of your rent, you should contact your landlord to discuss how much you can pay and when you can pay it. If you are able to secure a partial payment agreement, put it in writing, including when payments will be made, the amounts of payments, and the date both parties agreed to the payment plan.
  • If paying your rent is an extreme burden, contact your landlord in writing to explain why, and request alternatives you may need, such as a delay or reduction in rent, a stop to rent increases and late fees, a 6-month period for repayment of rent, or the ability to end your lease. Include with your request, documentation (such as an email or letter) about your job loss, reduction in pay, or reduction in hours.

What if I need help paying for my rent, home loan, or other bills?

CARES Act Direct Payments – Recovery benefits of $1,200 per adult individual ($2,400 for couples filing jointly) and $500 for each child age 16 and under will be automatically sent sometime in April 2020. To receive the full $1,200 ($2,400) your adjusted gross income for 2019 or 2018 must be $75,000 ($150,000 for couples). The amount you get goes down as income rises until it disappears entirely.

CARES Act Tenant-Based Rental Assistance – In terms of help with paying your rent, the CARES Act provides the Department of Housing and Urban Development ( HUD) with an additional $17.4 billion in funding including monies for rent assistance, housing vouchers, public housing, and housing for the elderly. For help contact HUD Rental Assistance.

Fannie Mae Disaster Response Network – Fannie Mae's Disaster Response Network has published a guide for renters affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19). Through the network, HUD-approved housing advisors provide:

  • Personalized recovery assessment and action plan
  • Help working with your housing situation
  • Financial coaching and budgeting
  • Access to Clearpoint’s* Project Porchlight Online tools and resources
    Ongoing check-ins to help ensure a successful recovery

Call 877-542-9723 to access the Disaster Response Network.

Expanded Unemployment Benefits

  • If your work hours have been reduced or eliminated, apply for unemployment insurance from the State of Minnesota. Apply online in English, Spanish, Somali, or Hmong: www.uimn.org. Phone lines are reserved for people who don’t have internet access or who speak other languages. If this applies to you and you live in the Twin Cities area, call 651-296-3644.
  • Impacted workers can apply immediately – the usual waiting period has been waived. If you are sick, quarantined, or home because of an outbreak at your work, you qualify for unemployment regardless if you have actually contracted a communicable disease.
  • If you stay home due to lack of child care, you qualify for unemployment, but there are some limitations. An applicant must make a reasonable effort to obtain other childcare, as well as request time off or “other accommodation” from their employer. If that doesn’t help, then unemployment is an option.
  • With the CARES Act, your eligibility for unemployment insurance is expanded if you lose your job due to COVID-19. After your regular state benefits expire you may receive up to an additional 13 weeks of benefits including an additional $600 per week. Unemployment benefits are also expanded to include people not normally eligible such as independent contractors, part-time employees, or members of the gig economy.

MNsure Special Enrollment Period

  • MNsure is offering a special enrollment period for qualified individuals who are currently without insurance in response to the potential growth of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases. This special enrollment period runs Monday, March 23 through Tuesday, April 21. You can fine more information here: https://www.mnsure.org/stay-informed/covid-19-info/index.jsp
  • In addition, COVID-19 diagnostic testing is available at no cost for those who are enrolled through MNsure. All four medical insurance companies that sell private health insurance plans on MNsure are waiving co-pays, co-insurance and deductibles related to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) diagnostic testing.

Emergency Assistance

Food

Utilities

  • Xcel Energy announced it will indefinitely suspend service disconnections and waive late fees when associated with COVID-19 challenges. Call 1-800-895-4999 for more information.
  • CenterPoint Energy is doing the same for gas. Call 1-800-245-2377.

211.org Social Services Search – United Way sponsored website http://211.org provides an easy-to-use search bar by zip code, or by community and state, to find sources of help with rent as well as many other essential services. Fill in the required information, click "search" and get information about available help.

Stay informed about the Coronavirus

All forms of media are now dominated with information about the coronavirus, but some less reputable sources are spreading incomplete, misleading, false, or even malicious information. Stay informed but make sure that you are relying on reputable sources and, ideally, confirming the information with at least two sources. A couple of the best sources are the Minnesota Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).