Q: I had a tenant who rented my apartment from Jan. 1, 2012, through the end of June 2012, with a monthly rent of $600, plus utilities. When the tenant moved out, she needed storage for her items for one month before she could move into her new apartment. She stored her items in my garage for one month for a fee of $100.
Do I include the utilities and the storage fee in her rent credit form, or do I just report the $600 for each of six months?
A: A landlord is required to provide every tenant with a Certificate of Rent Paid by that tenant or household, and identify the total amount paid for rent by the tenant during the calendar year. This includes rent for storage, as well as rent for the unit.
If utilities are billed separately, then the rent does not include utilities, so the utilities are not included in the Certificate of Rent Paid amount. If the utilities are part of the rent (i.e., the tenant pays rent of $600 and nothing more) then the utilities are not subtracted from the rent amount. The Certificate of Rent Paid is given to the tenant by Feb. 1 in the year following the year that the rent was paid.
Who pays the garbage bill?
Q: We are landlords of a rental property that is out of state, and we contract with a property-management company. Our contract states that the rent is paid by the tenant and that the tenant is responsible for the utilities. The tenant has not paid the garbage bill, and the property-management company deducted it from our rent payment.
In addition, the property-management company replaced the carpet in our house without notifying us or asking permission. Does the property-management company have the right to do either one of these things?
A: I’m not sure what rights your property-management company has without seeing the contract between you and the company. I’m licensed to practice only in the state of Minnesota; I’m not sure what state your property is located in and what laws apply there. However, I can tell you that it will depend on what’s included in your contract with the management company. The company may have found it difficult to rent out your property without new carpeting. If your contract states that the company can make improvements to your property in order to rent it, without your prior approval, then it is probably OK for the company to replace the carpet. You should review the language in your contract to determine whether it’s legal for the company to replace the carpeting and charge you for your tenant’s garbage bill.
Many landlords will increase their tenants’ rent in order to cover such bills, then use the extra rent to pay the bills themselves. That way, the landlords know the garbage bill is being paid, and they have the extra expense covered through the higher rent. Next time, tell your property-management company to increase the rent to cover garbage expenses, so you don’t get stuck paying this bill. You should also have a dollar limit on the improvements your property-management company can make before requiring your approval.
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.