Q: When we moved into our rental home six years ago, my landlord said she couldn’t issue us a Certificate of Rent Paid (CRP) form. Instead, she said that she would give us one free month of rent every year for not filing a CRP form. However, she never gave us the free month of rent each year. Recently, we had to move, and I found out that our landlord never told the city or county that she had moved away and was renting the property to us. She paid homestead taxes for six years while not living in the house. What can I do?
A: Since your landlord told you not to file a CRP form for tax purposes, she most likely did not have a rental license for the property in which you were living. You should contact the city of Minneapolis by calling 612-673-3000 or 311 to find out if your previous landlord had a license for the rental property. If she didn’t, you have several options. You could file an action in housing court requesting that all of your rent money for the past six years be refunded to you. If your landlord didn’t have a rental license, she therefore doesn’t have the right to collect rent. I’m not sure how a judge would rule on such a claim because you waited six years before complaining about it or filing a claim. Your landlord also has a claim against you because, even though she probably didn’t have a license, you received the benefit of living there. A court may award you some amount reflecting the difference between your rent and the value you received, or determine that the value was equal to the rent you actually paid.
You may also have a claim to collect the rent credit you should’ve received for the past six years if you had been filing a CRP form. Once again, I’m not sure how a judge would rule on this claim since it appears that you agreed to not file a CRP form (by not filing one), and then waited six years to complain or file a claim.
You have a third option, which is to contact your landlord and work out a deal. You could request a refund to replace the refund you would’ve been collecting for six years if you had been filing a CRP form each year. You could also just request a refund of six months’ rent, since she agreed to give you one month of rent free for six years. If you do negotiate a deal with your previous landlord, make sure to get any agreement in writing and signed by both parties.
A fourth option would be to report your landlord to the city of Minneapolis by calling 612-673-3000 or 311. Let the city know that your landlord didn’t have a rental license for her property that you rented over the past six years. The city will require your landlord to obtain a rental license if she plans on renting out her property in the future, which will prevent the CRP problem from happening to another family.
Finally, you have the option of contacting the Minnesota Department of Revenue at 651-296-3781, or toll-free at 1-800-652-9094, to request a Rent Paid Affidavit form. This is a form that a tenant completes when their landlord fails to give them a CRP form or when there is a dispute over the amount of rent paid. The department also can advise you on how to proceed regarding the prior years, or whether your time to file on the prior years has expired. The department’s website regarding this information is: www.revenue.state.mn.us/individuals/prop_tax_refund/Pages/Renters_Property_Tax_Refund.aspx. However, you cannot print out a Rent Paid Affidavit form from the website; a phone call is required in order to receive a form.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Information provided by readers is not confidential.