Renting and the law: When one tenant leaves, should remaining tenant sign new lease?

  • Article by: KELLY KLEIN
  • May 10, 2013 - 2:00 PM

Q: I have been renting the upstairs apartment of my home to two men for the past two years. They are co-signers of a one-year lease requiring one month’s notice for vacating after that term, with a month-to-month agreement following the one-year lease. One of them is engaged and plans to move out soon. The other plans to stay until mid-June, as he is a college student whose studies conclude at that time.

What would you suggest for payment options for the months of April and May? When would you suggest a walk-through? Do we write a new short-term lease for the student?

A: You should do a walk-through when the first tenant leaves. This will protect both of your tenants — the first tenant from damage after his tenancy ends, and the second from damage caused prior to the first tenant’s departure. You should then sign an agreement with your second tenant, indicating that he is now responsible for the rent and any future damage to the unit.

As far as rent, you should charge what you feel comfortable charging. Most of the time, when landlords reduce rent or do favors for tenants, the tenants are very grateful. Sometimes, however, one party feels like they did something nice, and the other party acts like a jerk. So, make sure you are comfortable with what you charge, and don’t expect the tenant to hold a party for you if you cut the rent in half.

Tenant’s drug use

Q: I currently rent a room in my house to a man. The lease expired, so he’s on a month-to-month tenancy. I recently discovered that my tenant is smoking pot in his room. I want him out as soon as possible, at the end of the month. I’m assuming I don’t have to give him the regular 30-day notice, since drug use is involved, which is a violation of his lease.

A: Under Minnesota law, there are certain covenants or promises a landlord and tenant agree to that don’t have to be included in the lease language. That includes the landlord and tenant both agree not to have controlled substances on the premises. The breach of this covenant terminates your tenant’s right to remain on your property. You are allowed to pursue eviction on an expedited basis if the tenant is alleged to be in violation of the law by using drugs on the premises or committing other illegal activity. You do not need to give the tenant notice before pursuing such an action.

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, 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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