Q: My apartment is being renovated by management. They are forcing me to move into another apartment downstairs so that tenants across the hall can move into my apartment while theirs is being renovated. Management gave me only a three-day notice to move my belongings downstairs. I could use some help moving my furniture. But I was told that, because I rent in a rural area, they aren’t required to provide movers or assistance to move to another unit within the same building. Why is there different treatment for living in the city, vs. living in a rural area, when it comes to landlords helping with a move, due to renovations? Do you have any advice?
A: There is no specific Minnesota law stating that landlords or management must provide movers for their tenants to move to another apartment within the building, due to management’s desire to renovate. If you have a written lease, and the term of that lease has not expired, then basic contract law would require that the landlord cover any expenses that you incur in relation to the landlord changing the location of your unit, since they are requiring that you move. You should discuss this with your landlord, and get an agreement in writing acknowledging their duty to cover the expenses you incur from this move. You should hire movers and give the bill to your landlord, or pay it yourself and ask that your landlord reimburse you, since they are required to cover these reasonable moving costs.
If there is no written lease, or the lease term has expired, then your landlord needs to give you at least one month’s notice in advance of changing any major terms of the lease. Requiring that you move to a different unit would most likely be considered a major change, and if your landlord wants you to move in three days, then your landlord should be responsible for any expenses you incur.
Your landlord also may be in violation of the covenants of habitability, which require a landlord to keep the place fit for the use intended, in reasonable repair, and in compliance with safety and health codes. Your apartment isn’t fit for the use intended since you are being forced to move into another unit, with little notice, and they are requiring that you cover the cost. If a court determines that this is a violation of the covenants of habitability, then it is up to your landlord to pay any reasonable expenses, such as movers, boxes and any other packing supplies involved in your move within the building. I am confused as to why they are allowing other renters to move into your unit while their apartment is being renovated, since that does not seem fair to you.
If your landlord will not agree to cover any expenses, then your only options are to go to court and pursue either an emergency tenant remedies action, or a rent escrow action. Both are easy to file and pursue, even in rural areas, but you may want to consult a tenant rights organization or an attorney in advance, as your specific situation is complicated. Your other option is to do nothing, and force the landlord to bring an eviction action. This will cost the landlord probably as much as your moving expenses, and you have a pretty good argument that the landlord cannot evict you, as you either have a written lease that the landlord cannot cancel, or you are on a month-to-month lease (if there is nothing in writing), which requires at least 30 days’ notice. Hennepin and Ramsey counties have designated housing courts to handle these types of issues, but there is no difference in the laws between the city and rural areas when it comes to landlords being required to cover moving expenses during renovations.
Overall, you need to speak with your landlord and let them know they are required to cover any expenses involved in your move, since it is at their request. If you arrive at an agreement with management, you should put it 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 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.