Q: We are currently renting in Minnesota, and our lease was supposed to be up on July 30. However, since we failed to give a two-months’ notice, which is required in our lease, we have to pay rent for the months of August and September. If the landlord rents out our apartment for those two months, would we still have to pay the rent, too?
A: Minnesota law prohibits the automatic renewal of leases for two months or more unless your landlord follows a specific notice provision. Your landlord must send you a written notice pointing out the automatic-renewal provision in your lease. This notice must be served personally or mailed by certified mail to you at least 15 days, but not more than 30 days before you were required to give your 60-day notice. There is some disagreement over whether a 60-day notice provision is enforceable since Minnesota has a law that prohibits the automatic renewal of leases for periods of two months or more, unless the landlord follows the specific notice provision. Some courts find that a 60-day notice provision is always considered an automatic renewal for two months so it cannot be enforced on an expired lease unless the landlord follows the specific notice provision, while other courts state that 60 days is not always two months, so it’s not a violation.
You didn’t mention if your landlord provided written notice, other than what is indicated in your lease. If your landlord did not provide you with written notice pointing out the automatic-renewal provision in your lease in the time frame mentioned above, then you could tell your landlord the two-months’ notice clause in your lease isn’t enforceable. Your landlord cannot double collect by having you and your roommate pay rent for August and September when you aren’t living there, and also have the new tenants who are living in your old apartment pay rent for those same two months. You should contact your landlord to try to reach a compromise. If you arrive at an agreement, make sure to get it in writing and signed by both parties.
Early tenant move-out
Q: I rented out my house with an oral agreement that the rental terms would be month-to-month. We agreed that if either party wanted to terminate the agreement, they would have to give a one-month notice to the other person. We had an argument, and I have noticed that my renter has not lived in the place all week. She has moved most of her belongings out, even though it’s only the middle of the month, and she paid for the full month. Can she come in and out of the house even though she is no longer staying there?
A: You and your tenant have a month-to-month oral lease, and she has paid you the rent money for the full month, which you accepted. Even though she has moved her belongings out of your home and no longer stays overnight there, she is still allowed to come and go for the entire month. Since you and your tenant agreed that either party could terminate the oral agreement with a one-month notice, but it is the middle of the month and neither party gave effective notice, then you or your tenant could enforce the agreement for one more month. One of you needed to give the other a one-month written notice during the previous month in order to terminate your month-to-month oral lease by the end of this current month.
However, since there was an argument and it sounds like neither party wants the lease to run for one more month, then you should put in writing that both parties agree to terminate the month-to-month oral lease at the end of this month, and have both of you sign it. Once she has signed the agreement to terminate the lease at the end of this month, you should change your locks on the house next month. Do not change the locks before she acknowledges that the lease is terminated, since that would be considered a lockout.
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, or write to Kelly Klein c/o Star Tribune, 650 3rd Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Information provided by readers is not confidential.