Renting and the Law: Drilled holes in doors – can landlord deduct damages?

  • Article by: KELLY KLEIN , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 26, 2013 - 2:20 PM

Q: I own a two-story, 88-year-old duplex in St. Paul. It is a very well-maintained property in a great area. The tenant on the main floor took it upon herself, without telling me, to drill holes and install peepholes in her apartment door and also the main front door. These were both beautiful wooden doors.

I fully plan on deducting this door damage from her security deposit, but I have no idea how to place value on the permanent damage she has done to these beautiful doors. She might feel it is an improvement, but I believe she damaged the property.

A: Under Minnesota law, a landlord may withhold from the deposit only amounts reasonably necessary to restore the premises to its condition at the start of the tenancy, excluding ordinary wear and tear. I cannot say whether a repair to the door is sufficient, but you can certainly argue that repair is not sufficient, if you reasonably believe it is not.

However, if your lease allows your tenants to make changes to the property as they see fit, then you won’t be able to withhold the security deposit to cover the damage to both doors.

Most leases contain language requiring tenants to get permission before making any permanent changes, improvements or updates to the property. You didn’t mention any language in your lease, but I’m assuming it didn’t allow alterations to the property without prior approval from the landlord. You can close up the peepholes, but if you don’t believe that closing up the peepholes sufficiently restores the doors, then you can pursue the full cost of replacement.

Can landlord withhold CRP?

Q: I am renting a duplex, and I’m late on paying my rent for the month of April. Can my landlord withhold my Certificate of Rent Paid (CRP) form because I’m late? I never received a new lease agreement, either, since the last one expired in June 2012.

A: In Minnesota, all rental property owners, managers or operators must provide a CRP to each person who rented from them during the previous year, unless the property is tax-exempt. The CRP must be provided by Jan. 31, 2013, if property tax was payable in 2012 on the property, or if the owner was not required to pay property tax but made “payments in lieu of property taxes.”

Your landlord cannot withhold your CRP because you are late in paying your rent or for any other reason unless the property is tax-exempt. You should contact your landlord and request the CRP form, which you will need in order to apply for your property-tax refund or renter’s refund. If your landlord still won’t give you a CRP, then contact the Minnesota Department of Revenue at 651-296-4444, which can provide you with a Rent Paid Affidavit to fill out instead of a CRP. You will need receipts or some other proof, such as a bank statement, showing the amount of rent you paid.

Your landlord is not required to provide you with a new lease agreement. Unless there is a carryover provision in your previous lease that extends the terms of your old lease, you are considered to be on a month-to-month tenancy now that your lease has expired. A month-to-month tenancy can be terminated by either party with a 30-day notice. Review the language in your lease to make sure there is no carryover provision, which may require a longer notice to terminate.

 

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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