Q We signed a lease for a four-bedroom house in Savage for $1,450. Although the house was not cleaned after the last tenants left, it didn't appear to be in bad shape.
Upon moving in and running the washer for the first time, we noticed a leak underneath. When we moved the washer, the wall behind it and the floor were totally moldy.
Also, the bathroom toilet next to the laundry room is very old and in bad shape and every time it's flushed it leaks at the bottom; the wall behind it is also moldy.
When we checked the kitchen sink, we found mold on the bottom of the cabinet and behind the wall.
It appears that the pipes are all leaking and were not fixed. The worst is that one of the bedrooms has no vent. Is it legal to rent out a four-bedroom house when one of the bedrooms cannot be heated or cooled?
A Unfortunately, your only real option may be to file a rent escrow action in the county where you live. Minnesota law requires that you first give the landlord written notice of the problems, and then the landlord has 14 days to remedy them.
If your landlord fails to make the necessary repairs, then you can file a rent escrow action by going to housing court and completing the forms. You can ask that the court terminate the lease as one of the possible outcomes. The court may do that, or it may reduce your rent until the problems are fixed.
Before or after trial, you may be able to settle with your landlord by agreeing to terminate the lease. Assuming you do make such an agreement, make sure that there is something in writing, even if it is handwritten, and that both parties sign it to memorialize the agreement. Often, people make agreements and their memories can differ. So, make sure that such an agreement covers the move-out, how past and future rent is to be handled, as well as the damage deposit.
Q I own a duplex in St. Paul. The tenant downstairs is on a month-to-month agreement as their lease expired last year and they do not want a long-term lease. They had a cat when they moved in, which I approved.
About six months ago I was at the property and saw that they had a puppy in the unit. When I inquired, they said they were watching it for their friend who was on vacation. When I was there two months later I was told they were sharing the dog and that they only had it 50 percent of the time.
Now, it seems to be there all the time and is no longer a puppy, but a 40-pound dog. Seems very playful and nice, but it's still a large dog.
I understand by not telling them to remove the dog, I am acknowledging its presence and allowing it to remain there.
The tenant does not have renter's insurance or any coverage that would cover any dog bites/attacks. Would I become liable if the dog bites or attacks someone?
A Ordinarily, under Minnesota law, a landlord owes no duty to third parties for the actions of a tenant. It is very unlikely that you would be held liable if the dog were to bite someone, as you have no ability to control the dog.
Since the tenant is on a month-to-month lease, you have the right to give them notice to vacate the property unless they get rid of the dog, or obtain an insurance policy with appropriate coverage for the dog.
They would have to provide you with evidence that payments on the policy were current as well. You can decide what you want to do, but based on current law, I believe it is unlikely that you could be liable for the dog's actions.
Kelly Klein is a Minneapolis attorney. Do not rely on advice in this column regarding a legal situation until you consult a qualified attorney; information provided by readers is not confidential; participation in this column does not create an attorney/client relationship, and no such relationship is created without a retainer agreement with Klein. If you have questions concerning renting, you can e-mail her at email@example.com, post your questions at www.startribune.com/kellyklein or write in care of Star Tribune, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488.
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