Renting and the Law: Can lease specify forfeiture of damage deposit?
- Article by: KELLY KLEIN
- July 21, 2012 - 5:43 PM
Q I am going to rent out a house. I would like to know if it is OK to say the following in the lease: "It is expressly agreed that there shall be no surrender of said premises before the expiration of this lease (12 months) by the tenant, except by written consent, signed by the Lessor. The damage deposit will be forfeited by tenant should this lease not be fulfilled."
Are there any rules or statues stating I cannot use this type of wording?
A It is difficult to advise you regarding specific lease language without seeing the entire lease. Minnesota law says that the security deposit is intended to cover amounts that the tenant owes to the landlord, which includes unpaid rent as a result of breaking the lease. I think it is good to put a warning in the lease saying that the deposit will be used to cover any amounts owed to the landlord by the tenants, including money owed if the lease is not fulfilled. However, the statute does not permit forfeiture of the entire deposit if that is more than owed. So, for instance, if the deposit is $4,000 and the rent is $1,500, you cannot simply keep the entire deposit if the tenant leaves a month early. The best thing to do is to bring the lease to an attorney for review. Violations of the law can result in payment of extra damages, so make sure your lease and your practices comply with the law. It may cost you a little money to have an attorney look at the lease, but it will probably save you money in the long run.
Live-in stager ordered to vacate home that's on market
Q My girlfriend and I live in a home in St. Paul. We were both working for a staging company that staged this property for selling purposes. There was a falling-out with the employer, mainly due to the company owner refusing to pay wages owed. Long story short, we were supposedly sent a letter to vacate that we never received. We became aware of it a week later because a copy of the letter (addressed incorrectly) was attached to an e-mail that my girlfriend received from the home seller. Yesterday we were served with court papers for eviction and are to appear in court next week.
We haven't had any time to prepare or find other living arrangements. Is this acceptable? Aren't there requirements for notice?
A Assuming your employer had the right to rent the property to you, and the employment relationship is ended, then there is a question as to whether rent is due on the property. Under Minnesota law, a landlord does not have to send a notice to vacate to a tenant when rent is unpaid. He or she can just proceed with the eviction action. Many landlords do send a notice saying essentially to pay the rent or we will proceed with eviction, but there is no requirement to send such a letter.
However, whether or not rent is due may be a question, since there is a dispute about wages. If you can show that the letter was sent to the wrong address, you can argue that the notice to vacate is ineffective and request that the eviction action be dismissed and expunged due to improper notice.
If the court finds that rent might be due, then the landlord may have a right to pursue an eviction. Minnesota law requires that court papers be served not less than seven and not more than 14 days before the scheduled hearing. You say that the hearing is next week -- if the hearing is less than seven days from the date that you were served, then the service is improper, and you should request that the eviction be dismisssed and expunged. If it was seven days or more, then you need to show up and defend against the eviction action, asserting the unpaid wages as a defense to the unpaid rent claim. If the court finds that the wages offset the rent, then you should be entitled to stay on the property under the requirements of your agreement or lease, and you should ask that the eviction action be dismissed and expunged. If you owe rent, you can pay the outstanding amount at the hearing, and continue to reside on the property under the terms of the lease. If you can't afford to pay the rent, then you will have to move.
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