Q I moved into a condo last July. The owners recently told me they are not renewing my one-year lease because they have sold their house and are moving into the condo. Their house was for sale when I signed the lease but that information was not made known to me. I told them that, had I known, I would not have signed the lease.
The added expense of moving again after a year is causing me a great deal of distress. Are landlords not required to inform their renters of pre-existing conditions before signing a lease?
A You signed a one-year lease. During the term of a lease, a landlord has to honor the agreement, and cannot tell you that they are cancelling the lease because they want to move in. However, when the lease term expires, a landlord has no duty to renew, unless they are refusing to renew for an illegal reason, such as discrimination or retaliation.
A pre-existing condition is usually something like a broken shower or toilet, or the fact that the unit has been declared uninhabitable. A landlord is not required by law to disclose as a pre-existing condition the fact that the landlord intends to maybe move into the unit after the lease expires. In addition, someone representing the landlord may argue that they only intended that you live there for a year, which is why they only offered you a one-year lease.
Yes, it is costly to move. Maybe your landlords would be willing to help you out by giving you a break on the rent for the last month so you can hire a mover.
Talk to the landlords, and make sure you indicate that you wanted to live there longer, and see if they will do anything. Remember to get any such agreement in writing or confirm it in a letter, so that you are protected after you move.
Who pays for exterminator?
Q I am writing on behalf of my daughter, who seems to have biting bugs in her apartment. Whose responsibility is it to pay for an exterminator?
A Under Minnesota law, your daughter's landlord has a duty to keep the premises in reasonable repair, habitable and in compliance with the health and safety laws of the state. If the bugs were already in the apartment at the time her lease began, then the landlord is responsible for the cost of extermination. If your daughter or any of her friends or visitors to the apartment caused the bug problem, then the landlord could hold her responsible for the expense of exterminating the bugs.
Courts use different standards for determining whether the tenant or landlord covers the cost of extermination. There is no clearly defined rule on that issue, but I believe courts will require landlords to demonstrate that the tenant was negligent or acted carelessly in such a way that allowed bugs into their apartment. That's a high standard to meet, so if the landlord doesn't prove the tenant was negligent, the landlord must cover the cost of extermination.
Minneapolis law requires landlords to eradicate pests. The courts are split as to whether landlords can recoup these costs from the tenants, and it again depends on whether the landlord can prove that the tenant allowed or brought the bugs into the apartment.
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, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Information provided by readers is not confidential.