RENTING AND THE LAW KELLY KLEIN
Q We are into our seventh month of a 12-month lease and were just informed that the owners of the property are selling and that we need to have the property ready to show. "We" are a family of five with three small children.
I understand that the landlord has a right to show our home to a prospective buyer, but how much do we have to endure under "reasonable" access?
They have already tried to schedule three showings in four days, and this is just the first week on the market.
We do not think that allowing strangers access to our home numerous times a week for that full five months is reasonable.
Does the lease follow the property after the sale? We do not believe that potential buyers are being informed that our lease has five months left on it and we are worried that new owners could show up at the door and ask why we are still in their house.
A Unless the lease has specific language indicating that it can be canceled or terminated upon the sale of the property, the new owners will have to honor your lease through the end of the term. That means they cannot kick you out. Make sure to keep a copy of your written lease, just in case someone does buy the property or a judge needs to see it.
Minnesota Statute 504B.215 requires that a landlord give a tenant reasonable advance notice before entering the property.
This statute does not allow a tenant to exclude the landlord from the property, so long as the landlord has a business purpose for being on the property. Trying to market and sell the property is always considered a business purpose, so it really comes down to whether the landlord is giving you reasonable advance notice of the showings.
The problem with "reasonable" advance notice is that the definition of reasonable depends on the circumstances. In today's real estate market, sellers want to do everything they can to make things as easy as possible on a buyer. Showing a property at the whim of prospective buyers is way more common than it used to be.
The only thing you can do is sit down with the landlord and discuss the fact that numerous showings are making it very hard on you and ask whether you can work out a schedule or do showings at a certain time in the evening or on certain dates. Houses sell better when they are clean. Houses sell better when people aren't sitting around with their feet up on the table or with kids running around. The only thing you can do is offer to keep the unit as clean as possible for those showing times. If the landlord refuses to discuss the issue or take your needs into account, I don't see any reason to keep the place clean or to leave when the unit is being shown.
Q I had a one-year lease, but haven't signed a renewal in more than three years. I don't have a copy of my lease. I assume that I am on a month-to-month lease and have tried to get the landlord to renew, but he didn't want to.
I'm moving to Denver and gave him six weeks' notice. I'm leaving April 1 and he wants to charge me rent for the entire month of April. I talked him down to a half-month's rent if he doesn't find another renter.
If I don't have a lease, am I on a month-to-month lease? And is six weeks' notice ample?
A Once your one-year lease expired three years ago and there was no renewal or signing of a new lease, you are on a month-to-month tenancy.
A month-to-month tenancy is what you are covered under once your old lease expires and you and your landlord don't sign a new one.
Under a month-to-month tenancy, you or your landlord are required to give the other party only 30 days' notice to end the lease.
Some leases have 60-day notice requirements. Whether such a clause violates Minnesota Statute 504b.145, which prohibits the automatic renewal of leases for two months or more, is an open question. Some courts will determine that such a clause violates the statute, while others think the clause is valid.
An agreement to compromise on paying half a month's rent is probably good, simply because it takes the risk of whether you will win or lose out of the equation.
It is legal for you and your landlord to have a side agreement, such as leaving half a month's rent, but any side agreement you make should be put in writing to protect you both. Even if he won't sign anything, you can give him a letter confirming your agreement with the half a month's rent for April.
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.
This nonprofit company builds, renovates and manages rental apartments and townhouses throughout the metro area. For information about locations and vacancies, call 651-291-1750; for information, call 651-290-6228. Visit the website at www.commonbond.org.
Community Mediation Programs
The Minnesota Association of Community Mediation Programs offers mediation services for a variety of disputes, including issues between tenants and between landlords and tenants. Services offered are low-cost or free.
• Dispute Resolution Center in St. Paul, 651-292-7791.
• Mediation Services for Anoka County, 763-422-8878.
• Minneapolis Mediation Program, 612-822-9883.
• Community Mediation Services, 763-561-0033.
Department of Housing and Urban Development
HUD is a federal agency that funds and monitors housing projects and housing subsidies, insures home loans, investigates housing discrimination and provides lists of subsidized rental housing in the metro and outstate areas. There are fees for some services. Call 612-370-3000 or write to HUD at Suite 1300, 920 2nd Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55402 or visit www.hud.gov.
This nonprofit organization provides services, from phone information to legal representation, throughout Minnesota except in Minneapolis. Home Line also helps tenants organize to deal collectively, especially in buildings threatened with conversion from subsidized to market rents. Call Home Line's tenant hot line at 612-728-5767.
HousingLink is an Internet-based nonprofit organization that provides affordable housing information to the Twin Cities metro area and selected regions of greater Minnesota. Resources include an online searchable database of existing and planned subsidized rental units in the Twin Cities, affordable vacancies, waiting lists, a Section 8 information page and HousingLink's Housing How-to Library. Landlords can list their affordable vacancies for free. Visit www.housinglink.org or call 612-522-2500.
Project for Pride in Living
PPL helps low- to moderate income individuals and families work toward self-sufficiency by providing affordable single-family housing, rental housing, jobs and training throughout the metro area. 612-455-5100. www.ppl-inc.org. PPL, 1035 E. Franklin Av., Minneapolis, MN 55404.
Read past columns and study rental market data at startribune.com/rent.