Q I live in an apartment in northeast Minneapolis. My lease was originally signed by the owner/landlord, and within months of moving into my apartment the building became bank-owned. A property management company now handles the building for the bank.

A new lease was never signed with the property management company, so the lease I have has my name and my previous landlord's name on it. I have not signed any documents that say all conditions of the original lease transfer to the property management company.

Is my lease binding? I might move before the lease is up because I'm going to buy a home, so I'm curious about my rights.

A Your lease is binding in this case because the bank purchased the property, and all agreements or leases subject to that property are included in the purchase.

However, you could contact the property management company that handles the building for the bank and request that you pay a few months' rent to terminate your lease early.

You never indicated the date your lease ends, but you are liable for the remainder unless the company agrees to an early termination. So don't just leave without contacting the property management company, because the company might agree to work something out with you.

Otherwise, you could end up with a judgment against you when it could have been avoided. Remember to get any agreement between you and the property management company in writing.

Define 'snow removal'

Q We rent an apartment in a duplex; the owner resides in the other side. We are in the middle of a 12-month lease, which is the typical Minnesota Multi Housing Association lease.

The lease says that lawn care and snow removal are provided at no cost. During the snowfall we received on Christmas Eve my husband contacted our landlord and inquired when he would be doing such snow removal, and advised him that our front step was slippery and should be salted. Our landlord said he would be doing it soon.

About six hours later it was not completed, and I fell on our front step. Luckily, I wasn't seriously injured.

My husband called and left a voice mail for our landlord letting him know how upset we were and letting him know that I fell due to his negligence.

A few days later we received a letter from our landlord that attempts to further define the term "snow removal" in relation to our lease as "snow removal by mechanical means only," basically saying he's not responsible for shoveling our sidewalk or step or salting. He says it is our responsibility.

Is his attempt at a definition considered changing the terms of our lease? If we don't agree to that, what do we do? He claims to have an attorney who told him that he doesn't have to shovel, because we should expect that it would be our responsibility since we live in Minnesota.

If it wasn't for the fact that our lease says "snow removal" is included or we were receiving compensation for it, I wouldn't have a problem with it. I feel like he's trying to skirt his responsibilities by defining words however he likes.

A Ordinarily, under Minnesota law, a tenant is not required to perform maintenance on the unit. Minnesota Statute 504B.161 states that a tenant can only be required to perform maintenance if there is a conspicuous written agreement outlining those duties that is supported by adequate consideration.

So, the landlord's attempt to play with the definition of snow removal is a nonstarter. The landlord has the duty to remove all the snow, unless there is a written clause in the lease and adequate consideration such as a quantifiable rent reduction or cash paid to you by the landlord.

Many leases contain clauses that require the tenant to perform snow removal and lawn maintenance. If I were advising the landlord, I would also make sure to put a dollar value on those services so that there is no question that agreement is within the statute. The attorney who told the landlord that you were supposed to shovel must have been mistaken.

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.