Q: Without any advance notice to the tenants, my landlord has started construction, only a few feet from my kitchen wall, to convert a storage closet into a studio apartment. The incessant pounding and drilling reverberates throughout the building and is particularly jarring in my unit.
I've asked my landlord to start construction later in the day so that I can sleep in the morning to accommodate my work schedule. She refused. When I took the matter to the company's property manager, he offered to bill me for the extra cost caused by the contractors having to adjust their schedule.
I've already documented my concern with two letters in preparation for a rent escrow case. However, I'm concerned that they will have completed their work by the time the case is heard. Can I accelerate the process, especially since management has already refused to work with me? If not, can I file for rent abatement without waiting the 14 days?
A: Your landlord is typically not required to give you notice of upcoming construction work being done on the property. If the construction doesn't involve your unit or the common areas, then most landlords don't provide notice.
However, you also have the right to quiet enjoyment of your apartment, and if you aren't able to sleep because of construction noise, that right may be violated. Unfortunately, your landlord or property manager isn't required to have their construction workers accommodate your work schedule.
You can file a rent-escrow action now, since you've already e-mailed or sent documentation complaining about the noise, and the manager has responded that he cannot fix the problem without charging you extra for the contractors' change of schedule. Once 14 days have passed since your initial letter or e-mail regarding the noise, you can file a rent-escrow action in the county where you live. You will need to attach the letter or e-mail that you sent to your landlord or property manager, along with any other letters or proof that could help the referee or judge understand the extent of your noise problem.
Your rent-escrow action is where you ask for rent abatement, and you can also request that your lease be terminated early. It may be that the court lets you out of the lease because of the noise, but you will have to document the noise as best you can with recordings and ideally some witnesses, so you can demonstrate to the court that you are actually being affected.
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.