Q I've been paying $30 a month more than I should each month for the past 10 months. My landlord never told me of this oversight and now I am not sure what to do.
I would like to write them a letter telling them to reimburse me for the $300 they have taken, but I am not sure if this is the right legal way of going about it.
A Yes, writing a letter to your landlord requesting a refund in rent money is legal. Did you discover the error by reading through your lease again? If so, you could mention to your landlord that your lease terms required you to pay a lower amount, and that it must have been an oversight because neither party noticed the error.
I would write your landlord a letter stating your mistake of paying $30 more per month in rent money for 10 months and request a $300 refund.
If the landlord refuses to return the overpayment, you could withhold the money from one month's rent or file a conciliation court action. The landlord's only defense would be the voluntary payment doctrine, but there are obstacles to meet with that defense. Keep a copy of your letter and any other correspondence for your records.
Q When I moved into my apartment the landlord refused to do a walk-through. We discovered leaky sinks, a broken toilet and shower head, mold and even a hole in the bathroom ceiling!
I filed a complaint with the county fire department, which did an inspection. The landlord made some repairs, but did not pass final inspection.
Now there are red ants in my apartment, and my landlord refuses to do anything about it. I asked for a copy of my lease to see if it addressed the infestation problem, but the landlord is unwilling to give me a copy!
My family has suffered many bites from these critters! What can I do?
A You don't need to see your lease to determine whether the landlord is responsible for your ant infestation problem, because landlords are always responsible for problems like ants, unless the tenants caused the problem.
Your apartment is uninhabitable, so you were right to contact the fire department. You should also contact the city inspector as soon as possible.
Your landlord is required by law to give you a copy of your lease under Minnesota Statute 504B.115. But a landlord's failure to do so is only a defense to an action for breach of the lease. So, you can't really enforce it except to ask for a copy of your lease in a rent escrow action.
Under Minnesota Statute 504B.385 you should send your landlord a written letter stating the problems or repairs that need to be made in your apartment and giving the landlord 14 days to fix these problems.
If the problems aren't fixed within 14 days, you need to file a rent escrow action in the county where you live. The county clerk will help you complete the paperwork. In doing so, you will be placing your full rent with the court, not your landlord.
This may encourage your landlord to make repairs. You should also request rent abatement in your rent escrow action, so you can receive a reduction in your rent payment for living in an uninhabitable apartment. In this same paperwork, you can also ask the court to terminate your lease immediately because of your living conditions.
Keep copies of any letters you send your landlord and bring them to court. It is very important to document everything and keep copies to use as evidence, including the fire department's paperwork and any code violations you know of in the building or your unit.
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.