Q: We recently moved into a townhouse in Woodbury. When we moved in, the carpet was sticky and had a horrible odor. I wrote about the odor in my tenant checklist, but the manager still hasn’t addressed the smelly carpet or a few other issues I mentioned. The lighting in my bedroom is very low, and brightens up after a few hours of being on. The hallway light doesn’t work at all. The closet door in my son’s bedroom doesn’t work; the owner promised us she would repair it before we moved in. There is also a missing drawer in the bathroom vanity. A few weeks after moving in, the closet door in my other son’s bedroom completely fell off the track.
I mentioned it to the owner, and now a month has gone by, and still nothing has been done.
Recently, the previous tenants stopped by, and we talked. It turns out the same broken items I’m asking to have fixed have been broken for more than nine years, with the previous tenants asking for the same repairs. The previous tenants also told us that the carpet was 14 years old, and that the manager asked the carpet cleaners, in front of the previous tenants, if the carpet would work for the next tenant since it’s so old.
I’m growing frustrated with this situation. I have two premature babies who spent years learning to crawl and walk. The only rooms not carpeted in the home are the bathrooms and kitchen area. I cannot risk the health of my children, and I would like to know what I should do about my living situation.
A: Under Minnesota law, the landlord must keep your place in reasonable repair and also be in compliance with Minnesota health and safety laws. If the owner or landlord doesn’t keep the place in reasonable repair, then you need to send a letter detailing the repairs needed. In that letter, you should request new carpeting, since it doesn’t sound like a good cleaning will fix your carpet problem. In your letter, you should also list everything in your townhouse that needs repair.
According to the law, your landlord has 14 days to repair or replace the items that need it. If your landlord fails to repair or replace the closet doors, missing drawer, lights and carpeting in 14 days, then you should file a rent escrow action with the court administrator in Washington County. The court will provide a simple affidavit form, and you will need to attach your letter to the landlord, and any previous e-mails or letters you’ve written to your landlord requesting that repairs be made, along with your rent, if any is due at that time.
Typically, in rental homes or apartments, only carpet cleaning is required by landlords. However, since cleaning didn’t resolve the odor or stickiness, new carpet is most likely needed in this situation. New carpeting is a big expense for any landlord, so you should request new carpet but it may not be granted. Often the landlord and tenant share the cost of new carpet if the tenant plans on living in the rental several more years.
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 Third Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Information provided by readers is not confidential.