RENTING AND THE LAW KELLY KLEIN
Q My son is renting a house. On Aug. 10, the sheriff came to his door and handed him legal documents that said that the house is going through foreclosure. He's found another house to rent. Can he get out of the lease?
A The short answer is no, because the foreclosure process doesn't terminate your son's lease. Technically, the lease is not terminated until after the redemption period expires, which is usually six months from the date of the sheriff's sale.
To me, it sounds as if your son was notified that the sheriff's sale was scheduled. After the sheriff's sale, during what is called the redemption period, the property owner can redeem the property by paying the outstanding amount to the person who bid on it at the foreclosure sale. During that period, the owner still has the same rights as before the sheriff's sale, and the lease remains in effect.
Q My father owns a duplex in Excelsior where the gas, electric and water are in the tenant's name. He had a tenant who owed money on all three when he moved out, and the gas and water were shut off.
I told my father that he is not responsible for the debt, but he thinks that the water bill will be added to his taxes. Is he right, or am I?
Also, what can be done about a tenant whose boyfriend moves in even though his name is not on the lease? He has caused some noise problems. The lease is specifically for one person.
A There is no clear answer in the law for your father on this one. The utilities were the legal responsibility of the tenant, but the utility company frequently will not turn on the utilities unless they are paid.
While your father can sue the tenant, and maybe collect, that is not a great option for him. His only practical option is to pay the utilities, and then complain to the utilities commission and, ideally, obtain a refund.
As to the water, since that is handled by the community, he is right that those sums are likely to be added to his taxes, because that is usually based on the address, not on the name of the individual. The only way to protect himself in the future is to make the utility payments, and then charge the tenants those amounts. That way, he should not get too far into arrears.
Most leases have restrictions that identify who can live there. It sounds as if the lease identifies the tenant, and if it also prohibits others from residing on the property, this is a lease violation that gives your father the right to evict the tenant.
In addition, the tenant is also responsible for noise caused by guests. Whether or not the noisemaker lives there, the tenant could be evicted for the noise. If your father doesn't want to pursue an eviction, he could write a letter giving the tenant a warning, indicating that the next infraction will result in eviction and stating that he is not waiving any rights, so it is clear he hasn't waived his right to include these violations as part of an eviction action.
Kelly Klein is a Minneapolis attorney. Do not rely on advice in this column regarding a legal situation until you consult a qualified attorney; information provided by readers is not confidential; participation in this column does not create an attorney/client relationship, and no such relationship is created without a retainer agreement with Klein. If you have questions concerning renting, you can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org, post your questions at www.startribune.com/kellyklein or write in care of Star Tribune, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488.
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