Q: My husband and I own a duplex in Minneapolis, and we have a tenant who moved out in July 2017. We mailed her refund for her security deposit to the forwarding address she gave us. A few weeks later, she followed up with us to tell us she never received the check. We canceled that check, figuring it was lost in the mail and proceeded to send a new check. However, this time we sent the check by certified mail in order to track the mailing. That letter was ultimately returned to us; the receipt stated that no one at the address was available to sign for the envelope. We heard nothing more about this matter until January, when she reached out to us again, asking when she would receive her security deposit. The next day, we sent another check by certified mail to the same address. On the second attempted delivery (which we scheduled through USPS with the day and time the renter supplied us) the certified letter still has not been delivered. It is being held at the post office. Since this has cost us money to send two certified mailings, as well as to cancel the original check, we are at a loss on how to proceed. Have we fulfilled the legal requirement in Minnesota in attempting to return our tenant’s security deposit?
A: In Minnesota, the law requires the landlord to send the deposit or a letter outlining why part or all of the deposit has been withheld. Ordinarily, the tenant informs the landlord of their new address or the landlord sends the deposit to the tenant’s last known address, and the deposit is forwarded along with the remainder of the tenant’s mail. A tenant can legally use a work address, a relative’s address or a post office box. In your case, your tenant has given you a mailing address, but is not picking up the certified mail. Her failure to pick up her mail is not your fault, and you have gone beyond the legal requirements for returning her security deposit. When you pick up the certified letter after delivery has been refused, simply hold onto it as proof that you sent it. If the tenant calls you again, you may tell her that you have more than complied with the law and that if she wants her deposit she can come and pick it up. At that time, you can issue her a new check or give her the old one, but have her sign a receipt acknowledging that she has received the deposit and that you have complied with your duty to send it.
Kelly Klein is a Minneapolis attorney. Participation in this column does not create an attorney/client relationship with Klein. Do not rely on advice in this column for legal opinions. Consult an attorney regarding your particular issues. E-mail renting questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Kelly Klein c/o Star Tribune, 650 3rd Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Information provided by readers is not confidential.