Ellison: Pine County landlord must restore utilities to family amid COVID-19 emergency

The move comes after the Minnesota Attorney General filed a complaint and motion for temporary restraining order against landlord Howard Mostad.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison spoke to reporters at the Capitol on Friday, March 13, 2020, regarding new community mitigation measures to contain the coronavirus. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service

A Sandstone landlord must restore utilities to a family after he attempted to evict them last week, despite an executive order by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz barring such evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, Judge Krista Martin said in an order filed Tuesday in State District Court in Pine City that landlord Howard Mostad, of St. Croix, Minnesota, must restore utilities within 24 hours and not "interfere with the tenants' ability to live" at the residence during the peacetime emergency. Martin also issued a temporary restraining order against Mostad.

"It is clear from the facts shown by the State by affidavit that the tenants will suffer irreparable harm unless Mostad is enjoined from stopping the electricity supply to their home," Martin wrote.

The tenants were sheltering in place in the home with a 4-year-old daughter who has an underlying health condition that makes her especially vulnerable to COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus.

“We are sitting in our home with no electricity, heat, or running water. We cannot cook food or even flush the toilet… My daughter is telling me that she is cold. We have nowhere else to go and cannot risk exposing my daughter to other people," one of the tenants, whose names were redacted, said in an affidavit .


Last week, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a complaint and motion for temporary restraining order against Mostad.

In a news release Tuesday, Ellison celebrated the order and stressed the importance of sheltering in place and staying home to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

"It’s hard enough to afford your life during the emergency, but have a landlord try to force out a family illegally doesn’t hurt only them, it hurts every Minnesotan,” Ellison said.

“I’m glad the court recognized the urgency of this issue and is protecting these tenants and their child," Ellison said. "Most landlords are doing the right thing by their tenants who are affected by this emergency, and I thank them for it. But if you’re not, my office is showing that we won’t hesitate to make sure you do.”

According to the complaint, the tenants were on a six-month lease.

On March 4, Mostad provided them with a written notice to vacate the property, stating that they were required to move out of the property by April 1. The family had been unable to find another residence, the complaint said.

On April 2, Mostad knocked on the door and said he was going to show the house to potential new tenants.

He was refused by a tenant telling Mostad that "she did not want to let anyone into the home due to fears of COVID-19 exposure to her daughter," the complaint said. Mostad pushed his way into the house, walked to the home’s fuse box and removed numerous breakers from the fuse box, disconnecting the electricity to the home, the complaint said.


Minnesotans can report suspected violations by filling out a complaint form on the Attorney General office's website .

Jimmy Lovrien covers energy, mining and the 8th Congressional District for the Duluth News Tribune. He can be reached at or 218-723-5332.
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