Q: I have a tenant who continually fails to pay her rent on time. I gave her a 60-day eviction notice, and asked her to move out by the end of October. A few days ago, I received notice from her stating that she is willing to leave at the end of October if I agree to use her security deposit as October rent. She claims she doesn't have enough money to put a deposit down on a new place and pay me October's rent. I'm wondering what you think the best course of action would be in this case.
A: You do not need to agree to allow her security deposit to count as last month's rent. If you do allow it, then there is no security to protect you if she damages the unit prior to moving. However, given the fact that it doesn't sound like you are going to get any money out of her, then at this point maybe the best course of action is to agree to use her security deposit as last month's rent. Put this agreement in writing and have both parties sign it. That way, if she tries to get her security deposit back after she moves out, you have proof of the agreement.
If you don't agree to her proposal, then you need to file a conciliation court claim against her for the last month's rent. If you do agree to use her security deposit as rent, you can avoid the cost and time involved in taking her to conciliation court. If the unit she is renting is in good condition, ordinary wear and tear excepted, then you won't be out any money to repair damage caused to the unit. You will only be short for cleaning expenses, which isn't a significant cost compared with the time involved in taking her to court, getting a judgment against her, and collecting on that judgment.
Be sure to outline in the agreement that if there is any damage to the unit, then she owes you that money, and that if she fails to move out in a timely manner, then the money you are holding reverts to a security deposit, and she owes you rent for the last month.
Remember, always put every agreement in writing and get her to sign it — then you have proof in case she tries to claim otherwise. I'd also request that she clean the place thoroughly.
Tenant at risk
Q: I believe the man living in the apartment directly below mine is showing early signs of dementia. I mentioned some behavior changes to the building manager five months ago. Then two weeks ago, the tenant below me was unaware he had left the gas running on his stove. The building was evacuated, and at the time of the evacuation, he was about to go to sleep, even when the scent could be detected in the hallway above his floor.
Additionally, although this property has changed to non-smoking this year, he does not seem to retain this information, and I continue to occasionally smell tobacco smoke coming from his apartment. Management is not willing to contact the man's family or investigate any further. I am concerned for my safety, his safety, and that of the other residents in the building.
A: There are social-service departments in every Minnesota county that will conduct a home inspection and interviews of adults at risk. It certainly sounds like the gentleman who lives below your apartment might be at risk, so call your county social-service department.
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.