RENTING AND THE LAW KELLY KLEIN
Q I am suffering from carbon monoxide exposure from the kitchen stove. I called my landlord and asked if they had another apartment that I could rent and she said "no" and that I should move out by the end of the week. I'm on a month-to-month lease. Is this legal?
A No, it isn't legal. Your landlord needs to provide you a safe place to live, free of hazards. Carbon monoxide poisoning is life-threatening, and you should act to protect your health.
Since you have contacted the landlord and received no satisfaction, you have several options. The first is to contact the rental inspection department or the health/fire safety department in the city where you live. If the stove is causing a problem, they will "red tag" it and give your landlord a short time period to replace it.
You could also bring an emergency tenant's remedies action, similar to a rent escrow action, where you go to court and ask that the court supervise the repair of the problem, and that the landlord be required to put you up someplace else in the interim.
It might be best to contact an organization such as Homeline, a nonprofit group that provides information about tenants' rights. You should not stay in an apartment if there is a carbon monoxide problem, and your landlord should be repairing the problem as soon as possible.
Q I moved into a one-bedroom basement apartment in a single-family home in November 2007. We have had no problems besides the neighbors upstairs parking and blocking the driveway. We've made a couple of complaints to the landlord. He is aware of the issue prior to us moving in as he had mentioned during our tour of the place that the previous tenant had also made a couple of complaints about the parking in the driveway.
We've taken pictures of the neighbor's car in the driveway. The landlord brushed off our complaints and after a few times he mentioned he will send them a letter. Everything was fine, or so I thought. Until just about a month ago, we started getting complaints from the landlord saying we were being too loud. One complaint came in while we were simply just watching a movie at home.
He then showed up at our door with an eviction notice and said that we were being too loud on Christmas Day. We had family over for a nice dinner that ended well before 9 p.m. I feel this is unfair. The neighbors has been living there for four-plus years. We lived there for one year.
A You don't say whether you signed a new lease in November or whether you are on a month-to-month lease. If you are on a term lease, such as a six-month or year lease, the landlord can only evict you if you violate the lease terms or fail to pay rent.
To evict you, the landlord would have to prove that you were making enough noise to violate the lease provisions prohibiting such actions. Since the landlord was not there, the other tenants would have to testify as to the noise level. Usually, when confronted with repeated noise, people call the police and the police can verify the facts.
Since it does not sound like the upstairs tenants called the police, it is going to be your word against theirs. If you stay over past the date that the landlord asks you to move, and the landlord brings you to court, you can raise retaliation as a defense as well as argue that no noise violations occurred.
Minnesota Statute 504B.285 allows you to raise retaliation as a defense. If the complaints that you made about the upstairs neighbor were less than 90 days from the date that the landlord served you with the notice to vacate, then the landlord must prove that the action was not retaliatory. If they were made more than 90 days before the landlord served you, then you have the burden of proof.
If you are on a month-to-month lease, a landlord has the right to ask that you vacate the unit for any reason, including noise violations, or for no reason, unless he is doing so in retaliation because of complaints you have made or for discriminatory reasons. Once again, if you refuse to move, and the landlord brings you to court, you can argue that the landlord is retaliating against you for the complaints.
Of course, if you lose, you will have to move and you will have an eviction action on your rental record, making it harder to find a place to rent.
Your best bet would be to contact an attorney or an organization that is familiar with tenants' rights to help you through the issues. A good place to start is Homeline at 612-728-5767, which can advise you in greater detail.
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.