When terminating a lease, is verbal notice enough?

  • Article by: KELLY KLEIN
  • Updated: July 19, 2014 - 2:00 PM

Q: I gave notice to terminate my lease by leaving voice mail and text messages for my landlord. I started placing the calls and texts on April 1, but my landlord has denied receiving them. He states he didn’t get my messages or texts until May 14. He says I need to give him a 60-day notice, but I believe I only need to give a 30-day notice, since it is the summer and we’re in the warmer months now.

My landlord also presented me with a list of things I need to fix or paint in order to get my security deposit back. These repairs include warped cabinet doors that won’t close, a broken thermostat in the clothes dryer, worn gaskets on refrigerator doors, tack and nail holes in walls, and faded paint on bedroom walls. Can you give me some advice?

A: Under Minnesota law, verbal notice to terminate your lease is not legally enforceable. Therefore, since your landlord denies receiving your verbal notice, you need to give written notice by sending a letter to your landlord at the address your landlord has given you. You need to check your written lease to see whether or not a 60-day notice or 30-day notice is required. If nothing is mentioned in your lease, then you are required to leave a 30-day notice. If your lease has a 60-day notice provision, then you should leave a 60-day notice if possible. A 60-day notice may or may not be enforceable under Minnesota law, but if you can give that much notice, then you don’t have to worry about going to court over that issue.

The language in your lease is the main factor that affects the length of any notice provision. Some leases require additional notice during the winter months, so you should look to your lease because that will set forth the required notice.

Under Minnesota law, the items your landlord has listed for you to repair typically fall under the normal wear-and-tear category, with the exception of repairing the tack and nail holes. Warped cabinet doors, broken thermostat in the dryer, worn gaskets and faded paint are common wear and tear, which is generally the landlord’s responsibility.

You should write your landlord a letter giving appropriate notice to terminate your lease. Also indicate in your letter that the items your landlord listed for you to repair or replace are caused by ordinary wear and tear. If your landlord withholds amounts related to these items from your security deposit, you will have to bring an action in conciliation court to recover the money. So, you may want to try and work things out in advance with your landlord, if possible.

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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