Minn Stat 504B.375, residential tenant defined

Minnesota case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: Minn Stat 504B.375, residential tenant defined.

Mary Cocchiarella v. Donald Driggs. Minn Stat 504B.375, residential tenant defined

Minnesota Statute 504B.375 allows a residential tenant to "recover possession of the premises" in order to provide "an an additional and summary remedy for residential tenants unlawfully excluded or removed from rental property."

In 2014, Mary Cocchiarella saw a "for rent" sign on an apartment building in Spring Park, Minnesota, owned by Donald Driggs. She was shown a unit, and returned to fill out paperwork. She paid $2400 for a security deposit and the first month's rent. She was given a receipt and told she could move in the next day. However, she was not allowed to move in, and a couple of weeks later, she filed a petition for unlawful exclusion under the statute in Hennepin County housing court. The housing court dismissed the petition on the grounds that she was not a "residential tenant," since she had never taken possession. She appealed to a district court judge, and then to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

The appeals court agreed with the lower court, since the statute defines residentail tenant as "a person who is occupying a dwelling in a residential building under a lease or contract...." Since Cocchiarella never occupied the unit, she did not come within the statute. The appeals court also noted that the statute is intended to "recover" possession of the property, which Cocchiarella did not have in the first place.

However, because she also included a claim for damages under Minn. Stat. 504B.231, the appeals court remanded for consideration of that claim and for a determination of the funds deposited with the court administrator during the case.

No. A14-1876 (Minn. Ct. App. Sept. 8, 2015)

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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