Q: My son lives in Andover. Last week he had a reputable mold-testing company come out to his rental property. The mold test in his bathroom came back at 3,000, and the mold test in the basement is over 600. The company told him that anything over 500 was unsafe to live in. My son’s lease runs until March, but I want him to move out before the mold makes him sick.
What should my son do to make sure he gets out of his lease agreement and gets his full security deposit back? Is it possible to go after the owner for rent paid while living in this unhealthy environment?
A: Under Minnesota law, the landlord is required to keep the rental property fit to live in and in good repair, which includes keeping the property in compliance with state and local housing health and safety laws. Since your son has discovered a mold problem, he needs to contact his landlord in writing, with a copy of the mold inspector’s report, and request that the mold problem be fixed within 14 days.
If the landlord fails to correct the mold problem in 14 days, then your son should file a rent-escrow action in the county where he lives and request that his lease be terminated and his security deposit be returned. In that same action he may also request rent abatement for the period he was living in an unhealthy environment.
There is a filing fee for rent-escrow actions, but it will be waived if your son’s income is very low. Make sure he keeps a copy of the mold inspector’s report, along with his letter to the landlord requesting repairs, since he will need to attach a copy to his rent-escrow petition form if he ends up filing a rent-escrow 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 email@example.com, or write to Kelly Klein c/o Star Tribune, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Information provided by readers is not confidential.