Unusual hobby causes lease-renewal concerns

  • Article by: KELLY KLEIN , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 28, 2012 - 1:39 PM

Q I'm concerned that my landlord is about to let my lease lapse, because I haven't been offered a renewal, as he usually does.

I think his reason might be because I hand-load ammunition and my strong avocation is target shooting. In fact, my social life revolves around it.

Can my landlord refuse to renew my lease based on this?

A Landlords don't have to renew leases and don't need a reason as long as the decision isn't based on anything illegal, such as discrimination over a tenant's race or retaliation for a call to a city inspector for building-code violations.

Since your landlord has renewed your lease in the past, your occupation and hobby never bothered him then.

Contact your landlord and request a renewal lease. It might just be an oversight. If you don't get a renewal or a notice to vacate, you will be on a month-to-month tenancy, which will require a 30-day notice by either party to terminate the lease. If you do get a notice to vacate, you must move or face possible eviction.

State law allows a tenant to assert retaliation as a defense to an eviction if the tenant can show that it was intended as a penalty for a tenant's attempt to secure or enforce rights under state or federal law.

If you believe that the landlord's decision not to renew was based on your target shooting hobby, you could argue that your landlord's refusal to renew your lease is a result of you exercising your second amendment right to bear arms. This is probably a long shot. For example, while you have the right to bear arms, if you are hand-loading ammunition inside the home, that is a dangerous activity and not likely to be considered appropriate for a residential setting.

Remember, if you fight the eviction action and lose, you will have a notation on your record that will make it much harder for you to find a new place to live. Your best bet is to talk to your landlord.

Time to collect

Q I rented out a room in my home without a written lease. I required $475 a month rent and a $100 deposit, with first and last month's rent and deposit paid up front.

I received one month's rent and felt the gentleman was nice and mature enough (he is in his 60s) to be accountable for the rest. By the third week in March, I asked for the deposit and last month's rent. He said he wasn't staying.

Without a written lease and no 30 days' notice, is he responsible for April's rent?

A Yes. A verbal month-to-month lease is enforceable for the additional month if the tenant moves without notice.

Because you received only the first month's rent and no damage deposit, under state law, you can charge the amount reasonably necessary to restore the room to its condition at the time he began renting, excluding ordinary wear and tear.

Send a letter to him by first-class mail with a prepaid return envelope. Request $475 for April's rent based on your verbal lease, along with a request for any damage deposit you need to cover the expenses of restoring the room you rented him.

If you don't hear back from him, you could pursue a conciliation court action to recover April's rent and any damage deposit you believe he owes you. Remember to bring to court with you any documents, pictures, witnesses, or any other evidence of the verbal lease and damage to your place caused by your tenant.

If you decide to rent out a room in your house again, have a written lease.

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 kklein@kleinpa.com, or write to Kelly Klein c/o Star Tribune, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Information provided by readers is not confidential.

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