Minnesota Supreme Court Will Hear Winona Rental Ban Challenge

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · May 20, 2014

Winona, Minn.—In a case that will have major implications for property rights across the state, the Minnesota Supreme Court agreed today to hear a challenge to Winona’s rental ban brought by the Institute for Justice and four current and former Winona homeowners. The Court will decide whether cities can arbitrarily take away the long-established right to rent out property.

Under Winona’s rental ban—locally known as the “30 percent rule”—the government gives only 30 percent of homeowners on any given block permission to rent out their homes. Whether someone gets a license is just the luck of the draw. In areas with few renters, some get new licenses. In areas with more renters, no one gets a new license.

In February, the Minnesota Court of Appeal ruled in favor of Winona’s rental ban. IJ and the homeowners appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court in March. The case will have an impact on similar bans across the state. Mankato, Northfield and West Saint Paul, for example, forbid many people from renting their homes with similar ordinances.

“The Minnesota Constitution protects your right to rent your property,” said IJ Attorney and lead counsel in the case Anthony Sanders. “The Minnesota Supreme Court can now tell local governments, once and for all, that rental bans are unconstitutional.”

“The government cannot arbitrarily restrict the property rights of some but not others,” said IJ Attorney Katelynn McBride. “Life circumstances change. In Winona, the rental ban is forcing people into foreclosure by forbidding them from renting out their homes while they are away or trying to sell their homes. The Court must put an end to cities violating the right to be secure in your property.”

The case was filed almost three years ago when the homeowners sued in October 2011. One of them is Ethan Dean, who tried to rent out his house in Winona while he worked for the U.S. government in five different stints in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ted and Lauren Dzierzbicki were unable to sell their home for over four years, and only just sold it in March after the Court of Appeals ruled. Holly Richard was told she could not obtain a rental license for over two years before the city admitted she had been wrongfully denied her license because the city had miscounted the number of licensed properties on her block.

“I look forward to Minnesota’s highest court vindicating my right to rent out my own property,” said Dean. “The Court can now decide whether this state is committed to protecting property rights or to protecting arbitrary government power.”

The Institute for Justice is the national law firm for liberty. For more on this lawsuit and today’s decision, visit http://www.ij.org/mn-rental-caps.