Q My roommate and I were just forced out of our apartment due to a pending condo conversion.

The situation at the apartment during the remaining tenancy was less than ideal for various reasons. We lived there only a year.

The landlord was asked to do a final walk-through, but refused, citing that he had no knowledge of the initial condition, and was not there to collect our keys the day the lease expired. The apartment was left in better condition than we found it.

After 18 days, we received a call from the landlord saying that he did not have a copy of the lease and we needed to provide one. I did this on the 21st of the month. We received a check later in the week dated the 21st, but postmarked on the 24th, and made out to only one of the two lessees.

Money was deducted from the deposit for what they called painting and administration fees. The landlord indicated that they painted the whole apartment and that this was a normal and legal fee he was allowed to charge.

I feel like I am having my deposit skimmed because of the relationship with the landlord and that the feeling on his part is I won't take action because the amount withheld is relatively low.

I also understand that after three weeks, provided a correct forwarding address is given, you are supposed to receive the deposit.

The landlord had seven months to obtain a copy of the lease. I sent the copy on good faith as soon as I was aware.

A Minnesota Statute 504B.178 permits a landlord to withhold those sums from a damage deposit necessary to remedy defaults in payment or to restore the premises to their condition at the beginning of the tenancy -- ordinary wear and tear excepted.

Because your landlord cannot state the condition of the unit at the time you rented it, he should not be charging you for painting and should never be charging you administrative fees.

Some courts will permit a landlord to charge for painting if that is their regular practice, but most of the time, a judge believes that painting is just a cost of doing business.

Your only option is to pursue the matter in conciliation court. While there are additional penalties if a landlord does not pay within 21 days after the lease is terminated, it is unlikely that a court will consider that he acted in bad faith because he was so close to the deadline.

You have a right to make such a claim and have a good technical argument, but I think it is unlikely you will be awarded the penalties.

Q My wife and I rented the house where we are currently living in April 2002. We paid a rental security deposit of $1,700 (one month's rent) at that time along with a $1,000 damage deposit plus $200 deposit for pets.

We plan on leaving this summer. Is the landlord obligated to pay us interest on the money he has been holding for six years?

A Minnesota Statute 504B.178 requires that your landlord pay simple interest on your damage deposit. From April 2002 to August 2003, your landlord is required to pay 3 percent interest. From August 2003 through today, the landlord is required to pay 1 percent interest on the deposit.

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 kklein@kleinpa.com, 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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