Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Staff Report
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Landlord faces attorney general's office after shutting off Sandstone family's power during emergency

 


Minnesota’s attorney general is taking legal action against a Minnesota landlord who attempted to evict a Pine County family – including a four-year-old child – who were attempting to shelter in place during the COVID-19 state of emergency in their home in Sandstone.

According to the Minnesota Attorney General’s office, landlord Howard Mostad – who resides in the town of Marine on St. Croix – sent a written notice to the family to vacate the property on Grindstone Road in Sandstone by April 1. However, as April 1 approached, they could not find a new residence to rent as their four-year-old daughter who lives with them suffers from pre-existing medical conditions that makes her more vulnerable to adverse health consequences if she was exposed to COVID-19. As a result, the family was practicing social distancing and quarantining themselves at the Sandstone rental home.

On March 23, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz issued Executive Order 20-14, which prohibits landlords and property owners from filing eviction actions or terminating residential leases during the statewide emergency, with only narrow exceptions for when a tenant seriously endangers the safety of other residents or is engaged in criminal activity.

Court documents state that on April 2 Mostad knocked on the door of the property and said he was going to show the house to potential new tenants. The mother refused, telling Mostad that she did not want to let anyone into the home due to fears of COVID-19 exposure to her daughter. Nevertheless, Mostad pushed his way into the house. Mostad then walked to the home’s fuse box in the boiler room and removed numerous breakers from the fuse box, disconnecting the electricity to the home. As a result of Mostad’s actions, the family and their four-year-old daughter are without electricity, heat, or hot water in their home. They cannot cook food or flush the toilet. They have nowhere else to go and are concerned for their health and safety.

The family reported this matter to the Attorney General’s Office on April 2. Assistant Attorney General Katherine Kelly called Mostad on April 3 and reached him at 12:50 p.m. During this phone call, Mostad admitted he rents the Grindstone Lake Road property to the family and admitted to removing the tenants’ electrical panel because they were behind on their electricity bill. During the call, Mostad refused to restore electricity to the home and said he did not believe they should be allowed to continue residing in the home even after being informed about Executive Order 20-14. Mostad concluded the call by calling Assistant Attorney General Kelly a crude name, and then hung up the phone.

The Attorney General’s office asked the court for relief and restitution for the family renting the property, and for civil penalties of up to $25,000 for each separate violation of the executive order and Minnesota statutes.

 

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