PRINT HED: RENTING AND THE LAW // Apartment has ongoing rodent issues
Q: My daughter is renting an apartment in Minnetonka and there has been a mouse problem in her apartment. Management has tried a couple of quick fixes, but these did not work.In the last two days there have been three mice, one trapped by my daughter a couple days ago and two mice yesterday that were stuck on mousetrap paper supplied by her building maintenance.My daughter is now on the third thorough cleaning of her apartment due to mice droppings scattered about.
I'm starting to get concerned about the health aspects with this ongoing rodent situation. I'm reaching out to you to see what recourse she has since her apartment complex manager seems unable to remedy this problem.
A: Landlords in Minnesota have a legal duty to keep rental apartments fit for the use intended, in reasonable repair, reasonably energy-efficient, and in compliance with all health and safety laws. A rodent problem lasting more than six months would most likely qualify your daughter's apartment as unfit for the use intended and not compliant with health and safety laws.
If there are repairs to be made or issues with the apartment that aren't being properly addressed, your daughter has a few options.One option is for your daughter to send a letter or e-mail to her landlord requesting that the mice infestation be fixed within 14 days. Even though she has spoken to her landlord about the rodent problem, she needs to put the request to eliminate the mice in writing, giving her landlord 14 days to fix the problem.
If the rodent problem isn't cleared up in two weeks, then your daughter should file a rent escrow action in the county where she lives, which is Hennepin County.In her rent escrow action, she will be placing her rent money with the court if any is due at that time.
In her action she can ask for rent abatement since she hasn't been able to enjoy her apartment for the past six months or more, and to terminate her lease.Another option would be for her to discuss with her landlord a move to a different apartment in the building, unless there is a mouse infestation in all the apartments there.
You didn't mention when your daughter's lease was up, but a third option would be for your daughter to work out an agreement with her landlord to terminate her lease early due to the mice infestation.Many leases contain a buyout clause, which may allow a tenant to pay two months' rent or some compensation in order to end their lease early.
In your daughter's case, her landlord may allow her to terminate the lease early and not pay any penalty for doing so due to the mice infestation they haven't been able to permanently eradicate. If your daughter does work out an agreement with her landlord to terminate her lease early, make sure she gets the agreement in writing and signed by both parties.
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.