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Evict a Tenant

An Unlawful Detainer is a legal action, in which a landlord files a request to the court to repossess a property.  The court decides if the tenant should be evicted or if they have a legal right to remain on the property.  To file in Dakota County, the property named in the complaint must be within the county boundaries.

NOTE:  The information contained here is NOT legal advice.  If you do not understand this information, you are advised to consult an attorney.

Reasons for filing for eviction:

  • Non-payment of rent (most common)
  • Not moving after receiving proper notice or after lease has expired

  • Cancellation of a Contract for Deed

  • Mortgage Foreclosure

  • Lease violation - including drug related

An Unlawful Detainer action is to recover real property; it is NOT intended to recover back rent.  If the amount of rent owing falls within the monetary jurisdiction of Conciliation Court, you may wish to start an action there.  If the amount exceeds the jurisdictional limit of that court, you must bring your action in the Civil Division of the District Court.

 Who can file?

  • Property Owner; or
  • Owner represented by an attorney who will file; or
  • Owner represented by someone who will file; or
  • Person entitled to possession of the property; or
  • Owner represented by a designated agent with power of attorney who will file
  • Agents cannot conduct a jury trial or appeal in the Appellate or Supreme Court.

Compliance with Minnesota Statute 504B.181

Minnesota Statute 504B.181 requires that you advise the tenant of the following in writing, and post in a conspicuous place in the building:

  • Name and address of person authorized to manage the premises

  • Name and address of the owner of the premises or the agent

If you have not complied with this law, your complaint may be dismissed unless you can prove that the tenant has had actual knowledge of this information for at least 30 days before you filed the complaint.  When filing your complaint, you must indicate on your form that you have complied with this law, and be prepared to prove in what way.

The Complaint Form:
Complaint forms may be obtained from the Minnesota Court forms page or from the Court Administrator.  The correct terms of the lease, if there is one, must be clearly presented in the first part of the complaint form.  You must know the following:

  • The approximate date the tenant entered into lease agreement or took occupancy

  • Proper, complete address of the Plaintiff(s) in question

  • Proper, complete address of the Defendant(s) in question

  • Length and terms of the lease or if tenancy is “month-to-month”

  • Specific reason(s) for wanting tenant evicted.

The Summons:
The Summons is a written notice informing the defendant that a court action has been started and that the case will be heard on a specific day.  It also directs that if the defendant wishes to contest the action or to offer further explanation, he/she must appear in court at the time specified.

Once the Complaint has been completed and the filing fee has been paid, the clerk will prepare a Summons and sufficient copies for service upon the defendant(s) and give them to the plaintiff.

Service of the Summons and Complaint:
It is the responsibility of the plaintiff to see that a copy of the Summons and a copy of the Complaint are served properly on the defendant(s) in one of three ways:


1.   Personal Service:  a sheriff or any other responsible person not named in the complaint may serve the Summons and Complaint by handing it directly to the defendant.  The Summons must be personally served on the defendant at least seven days before the date of hearing.  You, the plaintiff, cannot serve the Summons.

2.   Substitute Service:  The process server can leave a copy of the Summons and Complaint at the Defendant’s usual residence with “a person of suitable age and discretion residing therein.”  Again, service must be made upon the defendant at least seven days before the date of the hearing.

3.   Posting and Mailing:  If the defendant cannot be found or if service has been attempted at least twice on different days (with at least one of the attempts having been made between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.), you may deliver the Summons and Complaint by way of mailing and posting.  This method takes more time than other forms of service.  When mailing and posting, you (the Sheriff or process service) must:

  • Obtain an “Affidavit of Mailing,” and “Affidavit of Not Found,” an “Affidavit of Plaintiff,” and an “Affidavit of Posting” from a legal stationery store or from the court administrations office.

  • Promptly mail a copy of the Summons and Complaint to the defendant(s) at his/her last known address.

  • Another copy of the Summons and Complaint must be posted in a conspicuous place on the defendant’s premises for at least seven days before the hearing date.  The person who posted the Summons and Complaint must fill out the “Affidavit of Posting.”

  •  File all four affidavits with the court at least 3 days prior to the hearing.

The Hearing:
You must report to court at the date and time stated on the summons.  Upon arriving at the courthouse, proceed to the courtroom and check in with the court attendant.  The judge will ask the defendant if he/she admits or denies the allegations.  (At this point either party may request a court trial or a jury trial.  The law requires the trial to be held within 7 days unless there is an agreement to a later time).  A court time will be assigned before you leave the courthouse.

If a decision is made, the judge will sign a document entitled Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order for Judgment directing that judgment be entered.  If the defendant wins, no further action is taken.  If the plaintiff wins, you may ask for a Writ of Recovery.

Effective March 2011, Dakota County will be requiring licensed attorneys to represent owners of rental properties in unlawful detainer actions (except for individual property owners who represent themselves).  Please see the following for additional information: Eviction Cases.

A Writ of Recovery:
A Writ of Recovery is a legal order commanding the defendant to vacate the premises identified in the complaint.  The judge may stay the writ for a period of time.  After the stay has passed, you may complete the writ form at court administration.  The original writ must be taken to the sheriff’s department.  Once the original writ has been served, the defendant has 24 hours to vacate the premises.  The fee for issuing the writ is $57.00.  The sheriff will also charge you a fee for service.  If the defendant does not obey the writ, you should contact the sheriff’s department.

For more information, see the Judicial Branch Self Help Center

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