Renting and the law: Renter signed lease but wants out

  • Article by: KELLY KLEIN
  • Updated: July 5, 2014 - 2:00 PM

Q: I signed a lease yesterday for the rental of a double bungalow at $1,350 a month. I gave the landlord a deposit check for that amount. I have now decided that I do not want to rent the apartment because of the high cost. Is it possible to get out of this lease agreement I just signed? If it is possible, how much time do I have to cancel the lease?

A: There is no law in Minnesota that specifically allows a tenant to cancel a lease immediately after signing. If you want to cancel, then it all depends on the language in the lease. If you have a copy, please check to see if it is a month-to-month lease or longer term, such as a one-year lease. You should also check to see if there is a clause stating you have one week or longer to back out or change your mind. Some leases contain a one- to two-week termination clause for this very purpose. If your lease is month-to-month, then you are only on the hook for one month’s rent. If your lease is for a longer period, you could be on the hook for more rent.

You should contact the landlord or manager right away and say you made a mistake and now realize you cannot afford the rent. In most cases, landlords will release people from the lease because they want their tenants to be happy and able to afford the payments. If the landlord doesn’t care and won’t let you out of the lease, then make a deal allowing him or her to keep a portion of the $1,350 in exchange for early termination of your lease. Make sure you get any agreement to cancel the lease in writing.

Hotter water, please

Q: I live in a larger apartment building. The hot water is set at 110 degrees. I have tested it at the faucets, and the manager confirmed that is the setting. She told me that they are required by regulations to keep the hot water no hotter than 110. I realize the danger of having it too hot. But besides the irritation of not having water as hot as I would like for doing dishes and taking showers, I am concerned about bacteria and mold growing in the hot-water tanks at that low temperature. You would be breathing in the bacteria when taking a shower. Many reliable online resources, such as state health departments, mention water-tank bacterial growth as an issue at the lower temperature. However, I cannot find any information specific for Minnesota. Are there regulations in Minnesota on hot-water temperatures?

A: Minnesota law states that all landlords must keep in compliance with the health and safety laws of the state and local government. There are Minnesota regulations that state the water temperature in new construction needs to reach at least 105 degrees F. for sanitary reasons. However, there is no law that states a landlord cannot keep the hot-water temperature any higher than 115 degrees F. There is also no state law that limits hot-water temperature to below 110 degrees F. However, there is a law stating that water temperature must be between 105 and 115 degrees F. in residential homes. Therefore, your landlord is following the rule by keeping the temperature at 110 degrees.

Since you’ll find a warning sign on the side of most water heaters, stating that the water temperature of 125 degrees F. can cause burns or death, I believe your landlord is worried about potential burn injuries to tenants. It is also more cost-effective to keep the temperature at a lower setting. One solution would be to install a tempering valve, which would help prevent bacteria growth inside the water heater and also lower the risk of scalding because it mixes hot water with cold water at the outlet.

You should write your landlord a letter or contact her by phone stating you would like the temperature raised to 115 degrees F. because it is not hot enough for your comfort level when taking showers or doing dishes.

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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