Landlords Beware: Minnesota's Lesser-Known Disorderly House Statute

A state law that Minnesota landlords need to look out for

By Benjy Schirm, J.D. | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on January 2, 2024

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One way to create wealth is through real estate and private property. In fact, creating passive income through rental property streams has become a common practice for many joining the landlord game. However, there are many pitfalls that could sink your new venture and, even worse, potentially land you—the property owner—in jail.

There are quite a few regulations and state statutes that dictate the landlord-tenant relationship. One of the lesser-known Minnesota statutes that can affect a landlord is that of the disorderly house.

What Is a Disorderly House?

This lesser-known Minnesota law (Minn. Stat. 609.33) defines a “disorderly house” as any building, dwelling unit, place, establishment, or premises where illegal activities habitually occur, namely:

  1. The sale of intoxicating liquor or 3.2 malt liquor—especially in the time period between 1 am and 8 am;
  2. Gambling;
  3. Prostitution, or acts relating to prostitution; and
  4. The sale or possession of controlled substances.

The law then states that if anyone who owns, leases, operates, manages, or maintains a disorderly house—or invites others to visit or remain in it—it is prima facie evidence that an owner has committed the gross misdemeanor of a disorderly house (Subd. 2).

What Are the Penalties for a Disorderly House?

By law, the fines for owning a disorderly house are between $300 and $3,000 for the first offense, with fines increasing for second violations and further subsequent offenses.

Owners can even spend up to one year in jail. If the government does build a case against a landlord, the landlord may have to commence eviction proceedings against their tenant. However, an owner may refute this evidence by presenting substantial contradictory evidence presented at the court hearing.

How Landlords Can Prevent a Disorderly House

So, what can a landlord do to prevent this type of criminal activity from occurring on their properties?

To start, background checks are essential to providing a landlord with the necessary information before agreeing to rent a property to someone. Note, however, that when you are performing background checks, you must inform potential renters of both the costs and the extent of the process in your rental agreement. A best practice may be to deny any rental application that isn’t completely filled out, as this may make a background check difficult.

Of course, there are many regulations on what you can and cannot make your decisions to rent upon. For instance, a landlord may not discriminate based on race, years of age, familial status, or disability. Any protected class must not be a decision-maker for the landlord. Depending on the area and socioeconomic level of your premises, you must be reasonable.

You may, however, make occupancy decisions based upon:

  1. Smoking;
  2. Being employed consistently within the past 12 months;
  3. A violent criminal record;
  4. Proof of current renter’s insurance policy;
  5. Pet limitations;
  6. No prior eviction cases;
  7. Rent-to-income ratios.

For residents of the city of Minneapolis and Hennepin County, there are many resources you can consult to ensure that your rental unit is protected, lasting, and fruitful. On top of specific city ordinances and other regulations passed by the city council related to public safety or personal property, landlords should be appraised of what federal laws require of landlords and property managers.

Find an Experienced Landlord-Tenant Lawyer

Put together, these legal standards, regulations, and requirements can be complicated. With proper planning on the front end—as well as smart and informed legal help—a landlord-tenant lawyer can provide protection, identify issues, and solve them when they do arise. Be certain to find an experienced and reputable attorney who can help your properties flourish and protect your legal rights in the state of Minnesota.

For more information on this area of law, see our overview of landlord-tenant law and related content on land use and zoning law.

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