Tenants skipped town; can landlord enter unit?

  • Article by: KELLY KLEIN
  • Updated: March 23, 2008 - 7:09 PM

Q I own a rental property and have a lease that runs through June. I was informed by a neighbor that the tenants had a moving truck there and were seen vacating the property over the past two weeks.

I am concerned about the pipes freezing if in fact the tenants are gone. They have not paid the rent due Feb. 1 and the city of Burnsville tells me they owe more than $700 for water and sewer. They have given me no notice of any intention to move out.

How much notice do I need to give to enter the premises to check on the heat?

A Minnesota Statute 504B.211 requires that a landlord give a tenant reasonable notice of intent to enter. I always tell landlords to give a 24-hour notice because nobody can complain about that not being reasonable.

However, Minnesota Statute 504B.211 also states that a landlord may enter the premises without notice if the landlord reasonably suspects that damage could occur because of conditions relating to maintenance. Because you have reason to believe they've already moved, you have the right to enter and inspect the property.

Under Minnesota Statute 504B.211, if a landlord enters when the tenant isn't there and the landlord hasn't given prior notice, the landlord is required to leave a written disclosure stating you were there to inspect the pipes or check on the heat. The landlord is required to leave the written note in a conspicuous place.

You could leave a note to be on the safe side, but you have a very good maintenance reason for entering the premises.

No fees for unneeded work

Q My property management company told me I would be charged a mandatory $200 fee for repainting the unit and $175 for cleaning even after I cleaned the place myself.

I lived at the property for a year and then moved into another property owned by the same company.

There is nothing wrong with the walls. Management hasn't even seen the unit. What are my rights?

A Minnesota Statute 504B.178 permits a landlord to withhold those sums from the damage deposit necessary to compensate the landlord for any damage to the unit, less any wear and tear excepted.

The law does not permit a landlord to charge a fee for doing nothing and does not permit "nonrefundable" deposits.

While your landlord can set reasonable cleaning and repainting fees, the landlord can charge you only if they actually have to do the work, and the reason for the work is something beyond ordinary wear and tear.

Unfortunately, your only option is to wait for your landlord to withhold these sums and then bring an action in conciliation court for recovery. This may be iffy because you are living in a new unit managed by the same people, but there is nothing else you can do other than complain to the landlord, which may or may not work.

You should also make sure you document what your unit looks like and that there are no holes or other damage that would necessitate the work. Pictures, videos and witnesses are all helpful. If they write that the unit is perfect and then withhold those sums, so much the better. So see if they will write that.

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 kklein@kleinpa.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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    Sunday March 23, 2008

    The Minnesota Association of Community Mediation Programs offer mediation services for a variety of disputes, including issues between tenants and between landlords and tenants.

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