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Filing an Eviction / Unlawful Detainer Complaint

UNLAWFUL DETAINERS

What is an unlawful detainer?

An unlawful detainer is a court action which determines who has the legal right to the possession of real property (usually a rental unit).

Reasons for bringing an unlawful detainer action:

The most common cause for an unlawful detainer action is non-payment of rent.  Other reasons for an unlawful detainer action are:

  • Tenant's failure to vacate after legal notice has been received or after the lease has expired.
  • Cancellation of a contract for deed.
  • Foreclosure of a mortgage.
  • Violation of the terms of a lease.

An unlawful detainer action is to recover real property; it does not recover back rent.  If you wish to start an action to recover back rent you must file in Conciliation Court if the amount is $10,000.00 or less or in District Court if the amount is over $10,000.00.

When is unlawful detainer Court held?

Unlawful detainer court is held at the Ramsey County Courthouse three days per week.  The hearing date will be set seven to fourteen days after the complaint is filed.  You are given a hearing date when you file an unlawful detainer complaint.

Filing an unlawful detainer complaint:

In many unlawful detainer cases it is the landlord who brings the action against the tenant.  Because the landlord files the complaint, he or she becomes the plaintiff and the tenant is the defendant.

The complaint must be initiated by owner of the property, by an attorney who represents the owner, or by a person entitled to Possession of the property.  An owner may designate an agent to commence, maintain or conduct an action by attaching a power of authority to the complaint and filing it with the Court.

If the landlord is a corporation, Minnesota law requires that A LICENSED ATTORNEY REPRESENT THE CORPORATION IN THE HOUSING COURT OF THE SECOND JUDICIAL DISTRICT. THIS INCLUDES COMMENCING THE CASE BY FILING THE ACTION AND MAKING ANY APPEARANCES IN HOUSING COURT.

You can file an unlawful detainer complaint in this court only if the property in question is located in Ramsey County.

You will need to file the original complaint, plus a copy for each named defendant and two additional copy.  If the complaint involves a written lease, it would be helpful to the court if you attach a copy of the lease.  The fee for filing an unlawful detainer complaint is $327.00.  (Checks should be made payable to Court Administrator).

Compliance with Minnesota statute 504B:

Minnesota Statute 504B require that you advise the tenant of the following in writing, and post in a conspicuous place in the building:

  • Name and address of person authorized to manage the premises.
  • Name and address of the owner of the premises or the agent authorized to collect rent, accept service of process, and receive and give receipt for notices and demands.

If you have not complied with this law, your complaint may be dismissed unless you can prove that the tenant has had actual knowledge of this information for at least 30 days before you filed the complaint.   When filing your complaint, you must indicate on your form that you have complied with this law, and be prepared to prove in what way.

The Complaint Form:

You may download the Eviction Complaint form by clicking here.  These forms are available, on a limited basis, at the court office.  Complaint forms may also be purchased at stationery stores which handle legal forms.

The correct terms of the lease, if there is one, must be clearly presented on the complaint form.  You must know the following:

  • The approximate date the tenant entered into lease agreement or took occupancy.
  • Proper, complete address of the premises in question.
  • Length and terms of the lease, or if tenancy is "month-to-month"

Further, you must:

  • Name an owner of the dwelling and identify his or legal relationship to the person who is signing the complaint.
  • Indicate your compliance with Minn. Statute 504.22 as previously mentioned
  • Specify your reason(s) for wanting the tenant evicted.

The Summons:

A summons is a written notice informing the defendant that court action has been started and that the case will be heard on a specific day.  It also directs that if the defendant wishes to contest the action or to offer further explanation, he must appear in court at that time.

Once the complaint has been completed, the clerk will prepare a summons and sufficient copies for service upon the defendant, and give them to the plaintiff.

A brochure informing defendants of their rights regarding the eviction action will be attached to the summons by the court office.

Service of summons and complaint:

Click here to download service forms and affidavits

It is your responsibility as plaintiff to see that the Summons and Complaint is served properly on the defendant in one of three ways:

Personal Service  - The Sheriff, or any other responsible person not named in the complaint, may serve the Summons and Complaint by handing it directly to the defendant.  The summons must be personally served on the defendant at least seven days before the date of the hearing. YOU cannot personally serve the summons.

Substitute Service - If the process server cannot personally locate the defendant within the county, he or she can have the document delivered by substitute service using whichever of the following methods is appropriate:

The server can leave a copy of the Summons and Complaint at the defendant's usual residence with "a person of suitable age and discretion residing therein."

If the defendant has no usual place of residence, the server can leave a copy upon the premises described in the complaint with a person of suitable age and discretion occupying the same or any part of the premises.    

Substitute service must be made at least seven days before date of the hearing.

A SUMMONS AND COMPLAINT CANNOT BE SERVED ON LEGAL HOLIDAYS

Posting and Mailing -  If the defendant cannot be found in the county, of which the return of the sheriff shall be prima facie proof, and in the case of nonresidential premises, no person actually occupies the premises described in the complaint, or, in the case the premises described in the complaint is residential, personal or substituted service has been attempted at least twice on different days by the sheriff, with at least one of the attempts having been made between the hours of 6:00 and 10:00 p.m., you can deliver the summons and complaint by way of posting and mailing.

This method takes more time than the other forms of service.  Also, the Sheriff or other process server requires extra fees.

 When posting and mailing, you must:

  • Obtain an affidavit of "not found" from the sheriff or process server, stating he has attempted service in accordance with the Provisions described above and has been unable to accomplish personal or substitute service.
  • Return the affidavit and all copies of the summons and complaint to the court clerk.  You will be given a new summons (and two copies) bearing a new hearing date.  That date will be at least seven days after the day the summons is reissued.
  • Promptly mail a copy of the new Summons and Complaint to the defendant at his last known address and file an affidavit with the court clerk stating that you have done this.
  • Have another copy of the Summons and Complaint posted in a conspicuous place on the defendant's premises for at least seven days before the hearing date.  Finally, the person who posted the Summons and Complaint must state that information and indicate the date of posting in an affidavit.  The posting must be done by a responsible person not mentioned in the complaint.YOU cannot personally serve the summons.  This affidavit must also be filed with the court.  

FOR ANY OF THE THREE METHODS OF SERVICE AN AFFIDAVIT OF SERVICE MUST BE FILED WITH RAMSEY COUNTY DISTRICT COURT 3 WORKING DAYS BEFORE THE HEARING.

Writ of Recovery:

A Writ of Restitution is a legal order commanding the defendant to vacate the premises described in the complaint.   Once the Writ has been served, the defendant has 24 hours to vacate the premises.   The fee for the Writ is $57.00.  It must be served by the sheriff who will charge fees for service.  If he is unable to serve it personally he may post it in a conspicuous place.

If the defendant disobeys the Writ you should notify the Sheriff, who may then physically remove the defendant.  A bonded moving company, under the direction of the Sheriff, will remove defendant's personal belongings and store them in a bonded warehouse.  You must arrange for the moving and storage and pay the fees.

The defendant has 60 days to redeem the stored property.  To redeem it, he must pay for the moving and storage costs.   If unclaimed after 60 days, the property may be auctioned off by the landlord.   The proceeds are then applied to the moving, storage, and related expenses incurred.

Landlord and Tenent Resources

Additional information regarding landlord-tenant disputes may be found on the Self-Help Center website.  Anyone with a legal problem in a Minnesota Court may visit our Self-Help Center website.  There are no restrictions on income to use these free services.  Self-Help Services provide resources to people who represent themselves in court without an attorney, providing court forms, instructions and limited assistance with court procedures.  You may also find help links to other resources from the Self-Help Services website.