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Five Tips for Minnesota Residential Tenants

Part of my real estate practice is dedicated to representing commercial and residential landlords. As a result, I’ve learned a lot about what’s expected from my landlord clients as well as their tenants. The vast majority of landlords are just like any other small business owner—trying to comply with the law as best they can. However, some fall short, and it’s up to the law to help when that happens, so here’s a list of five tips that every Minnesota tenant should know.

  • One-year leases don’t have to be in writing, but it generally helps. Minnesota law doesn’t require a lease of a year or less to be in writing. However, some housing and conciliation court judges may try to avoid enforcing them without significant evidence of an oral agreement. If there’s an important term, such as a low rent payment, build-out authorization, etc., it’s better to get it in writing right away so there are fewer chances for disputes later.
  • Give your landlord a forwarding address when the lease ends to get your security deposit back. The landlord has 21 days after the lease ends to return your security deposit, plus statutory interest (currently a whopping 1%), assuming he actually knows where to send it.
  • Normal wear-and-tear cannot be deducted from your security deposit. Landlords can only deduct certain things from your security deposit, including unpaid rent, money due under other agreements (such as a utility bill), or damage to the property beyond normal wear and tear. What falls within normal wear and tear? According to the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, it includes thinning or fading carpets, nail holes in plaster, loose grouting and bathroom tiles, slightly torn wallpaper, etc. These types of damages are the landlord’s costs of doing business and can’t be pushed onto the tenant.
  • If the landlord won’t make repairs you think are necessary, call an inspector. Landlords must make all necessary repairs and keep the property fit to live in. If the landlord is ignoring your requests or not making the repairs, contact the relevant local, state, or county inspector and file a complaint. Make sure you request that the unit be inspected, since the landlord generally must comply with orders to bring the apartment up to code. No inspector? Send the landlord a repair request in writing and give them 14 days to fix the issues.
  • If you have roommates, you’re each responsible for the entire rent amount. You may think you’re rooming with trustworthy friends, but be careful: you can easily get stuck owing the entire rent payment unless you have a separate agreement with the landlord. Rent is due from the unit, so any shortage can lead to eviction and a bad rental reference for everyone on the lease, along with other consequences. If you can’t rely on your fellow tenants, get on a separate lease or be willing and able to pay the rent in full every month.

Having a dispute with your landlord or with your tenants? Contact Stephen for a free consultation.

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