Renting & Law: They're worried tenants will trash place

  • Article by: KELLY KLEIN , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 17, 2012 - 10:51 AM

Mother-in-law needs to move into a nursing home, and she wants the tenants out of the house. We don't want to give them notice to move out because my mother-in-law is afraid they will trash her house.

Q My mother-in-law owns a home in Minneapolis. My mother-in-law's granddaughter, granddaughter's husband and their child have lived with her for three years rent-free. There is no lease.

Recently, it became obvious that my mother-in-law needs to move into a nursing home, and she wants the occupants out of the house. We don't want to give them notice to move out because my mother-in-law is afraid they will trash her house.

What are our options?

A The occupants are technically living in the house on an oral lease, which doesn't require payment of rent. Unfortunately, unless there is good evidence that they violated the oral lease, the only way to terminate such a lease is to give them a notice to vacate the property.

A 30-day notice, tied to the end of the month, would be sufficient. The notice has to be received by the tenants before the end of the preceding month, so to be effective at the end of April the tenant must receive the notice before the end of March.

All the notice has to say is that their lease is terminated and that they need to vacate the property by the end of the month. Your mother-in-law should sign the notice.

I know this doesn't solve your problem with the fear that they might trash the house. The law doesn't allow you to bar them immediately from the property. Even if they violated the lease, and you brought an immediate eviction action, you would need to give them at least seven days' advance notice of the hearing on the eviction.

Your better option is to sit down with them and work out an acceptable time frame for them to move. Most of the time if people feel they are being treated with dignity, they are much less likely to feel the need to act out.

Move doesn't change lease

Q My mother is moving to Texas in June, but she has signed a one-year lease in Minnesota that doesn't end until September. Do you know if there's a way that she could legally break her lease?

A Because your mother signed a one-year lease in Minnesota, she is bound by its terms until it ends in September.

There are exceptions to this rule such as domestic violence situations or military commitments. It doesn't sound as if either of those factors exist for your mother.

Many tenants believe that if they build or buy a new home or need to relocate for a job or other reasons, they have a legal right to get out of their lease. But unless the lease contains language allowing a tenant to terminate it early, or the landlord agrees to release the tenant early, the tenant is bound by the terms of the lease.

Have your mother check the language in her lease for any information on early termination. If there is no language that allows for early release, your mother should talk to her landlord about paying a couple of months' rent in exchange for early termination of her lease.

If it's a desirable building, your mother might be able to work out an arrangement with her landlord. If her landlord won't agree to let her end her lease early, the landlord might allow your mother to sublet the apartment until September so she isn't paying rent on two places.

Remember to have your mother get any agreement between her and the landlord in writing so she is protected.

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 kklein@kleinpa.com, or write to Kelly Klein c/o Star Tribune, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Information provided by readers is not confidential.

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