In the fourth installment of “These are a few of my favorite things,” in which Minnesota Litigator engages in the art of whining via irony, we get to “strict compliance.” (TAAFOMFT, 1, 2, 3)
What “strict compliance” means is that you cannot be excused from following particular legal rules even in circumstances where you have entirely fulfilled the legal rule’s purpose. Let’s say, for example, you are obligated to notify someone about a legal proceeding, you do so, and the person is aware of the proceeding and, in fact, attends the proceeding. But the legal obligation required that you send the notification by first class mail. And you failed to. In the world of “strict compliance,” it is irrelevant if you have an airtight legal claim and your opponent has no defenses.
Tenant Sharon Johnson appears to have had full knowledge of the eviction proceedings against her. But “neither [Landlord] nor his attorney ‘signed and filed with the court an affidavit’ that complied with Minn. Stat. § 504B.331(d)(2). And neither [Landlord] nor his attorney filed any affidavit or mailed a copy of the eviction summons to Johnson at any address.”
In the Landlord/Tenant context, I agree, it seems appropriate to hold landlords to strict compliance of the statute. Landlords, as a group, tend to be repeat actors, many with lawyers, of course, and tenants, generally, tend to be some of the most unsophisticated and vulnerable actors in the world of civil litigation, without lawyers. Often they have no money to pay rent and, obviously, are unlikely to be able to hire lawyers. Pro bono assistance exists for some tenants…sometimes.
In short, I get “strict compliance” as a legal concept and even can understand why it might be required, particularly in such areas of the law like landlord tenant law, but that does not mean I have to like it.
I will be interested to see if the Landlord seeks Minnesota Supreme Court review and whether the Minnesota Supreme Court grants it. The case is a published case, meaning it is binding on Minnesota District Courts, meaning landlords will be subject to strict compliance until/unless the Minnesota Supreme Court (or the legislature) holds otherwise…