Utilities 'Cold Weather Rule' does not prevent evictions

  • Article by: KELLY KLEIN
  • Updated: March 27, 2008 - 5:19 PM

Q In a previous column I recall you saying that a landlord would not be able to evict a tenant in the cold weather months if they had children. Is that correct?

A I have said tenants cannot abandon property in the winter due to pipes freezing and other damage that can result, and they must give at least a three-day notice or be potentially guilty of a misdemeanor.

You may be confusing it with the Cold Weather Rule that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission adopted to protect a tenant or homeowner from having their heat source disconnected in winter if they are unable to pay their utility bills.

The rule is in effect from Oct. 15 through April 15 and applies to utilities regulated by the state. The Cold Weather Rule does not prohibit shutoffs but does provide four levels of protection. To qualify for any of these levels of protection you must work with your utility provider.

The Cold Weather Rule does not prevent a landlord from evicting a tenant or refusing to renew a lease that expires during this "cold weather" season.

Under Minnesota Statute 504B.285 and 504B.291, a landlord may bring an eviction action against a tenant for the tenant's failure to pay rent, or for another breach of the lease, or the tenant's failure to leave after notice to vacate has been properly served and the tenancy's last day has passed, regardless of the time of year.

How to get rid of tenant

Q I am the co-owner of a single-family home in which we rent out a few of the bedrooms (we also live in the house).

We have a renter who is urinating into cups and glasses and storing it in his room. We are hoping there is a way to get him out.

A Under Minnesota Statute 504B.285, subdivison 4, a lease may be terminated for committing a material violation of the lease agreement.

Leaving urine in cups around his room is unsanitary and creates a stench that may be damaging to the property, but it may or may not be considered a material violation of the lease. Therefore, you should write him a letter indicating the practice of storing urine in his rental room needs to stop immediately, or you will have to evict him. If he doesn't stop it after 30 days, you could then bring an eviction action against him.

Another option is to bring an eviction action against him immediately, and argue that his behavior is a material violation of the lease. Since the lease probably doesn't explicitly cover this issue, you may or may not be successful.

I'm curious, is he in college? Maybe he's working on an experiment for his thesis.

If he's always paid his rent on time and is otherwise a good tenant, you may want to give him a warning to see if he cleans up his act before proceeding with an eviction action.

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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