Q: We’re learning how expensive housing is in the Twin Cities for college students. We paid the “first and last month’s” rent when signing a rental contract that ran from Sept. 1, 2016, through Aug. 13, 2017. The students were required to vacate their apartment by Aug. 13, even though they didn’t move into the apartment until Sept. 1 the previous year. I think the students should have been allowed to stay until the end of August, or their rent should have been reduced for the month of August, since they weren’t living there a full month.
There was no damage or security deposit required by the landlord. When the students moved out in the middle of August, I asked the landlord if half of the $585 rent charge for August, which was $292.50, would be considered the security deposit that could cover any cleaning or damages to the apartment. Then, any remaining money from the $292.50 could be reimbursed to each of the student tenants. We were told that the $585 rent charge for August had nothing to do with covering damages or cleaning, and that we would receive a bill for the damages or cleaning if there was any.
Is it legal for these apartment complexes to charge for an entire month’s rent when the student is required to vacate in the middle of the month?
A: As long as the terms are spelled out in the lease, and you agreed to it by signing the lease, it is legal for apartment complexes to charge an entire month’s rent, even when the tenant is required to vacate in the middle of the month.
In your case, the student agreed to these terms by signing the lease, so they are bound by the language in their lease. However, the student tenant could have negotiated with the landlord by requesting to stay until the end of the month, or to pay less rent for the month of August. Many landlords would agree to a tenant’s new terms before the lease is signed, since landlords have a strong incentive to make concessions in order to get their apartments rented out. Some landlords will agree to new terms even at the end of the tenant’s lease, so it’s always good to ask, as you did in this situation.
If tenants sign a one-year lease, and the lease is to run from Sept. 1 through Aug. 31, then it is not legal for the landlord to demand that the tenants leave in the middle of the month. If your landlord requests that you vacate early, but your lease runs through the end of August, then the tenant has a choice as to whether he or she would like to vacate early, but it is not mandatory. If the landlord and tenant agree to a new time frame for vacating the apartment, or agree to any new terms, they should put the new agreement in writing and have both parties sign it.
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, 650 3rd Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Information provided by readers is not confidential.