Q: My husband and I are renting a house in Elk River, Minn. The home is perfectly fine; however, the owner, who is our landlord, re-sided the house during a very rainy period of about five weeks while we were living there. My young dogs and I were very nervous with the noise level of that project. We were tolerant of it and got through it.
Now the homeowner wants to replace all the windows. He requested entry for his workers to perform this work. I have asthma and refused their entry, due to rising dust. Now we're afraid that the homeowner may be upset with us and feel uncomfortable with the arrangement. We have paid our rent on time for the last four months. We just wanted a peaceful place to live. We have been landlords in the past and can't imagine being so disruptive of a tenant's space.
What are our rights with regard to this remodeling while we're living in the home?
A: Under state law, you have the right to quiet enjoyment and privacy in your rental home; however, the homeowner also has the right to make improvements to his house. The privacy law states that a landlord may enter the place rented by a tenant only for a reasonable business purpose and after making a good-faith effort to give the tenant reasonable notice. A reasonable business purpose includes making repairs, showing the place to prospective buyers or tenants, inspections, and may include other reasons not listed in this law.
It is highly likely that a homeowner installing new windows would be considered a reasonable business purpose under the law. If you signed a one-year lease and pay your rent on time, you most likely don't need to worry about being given notice to end your lease anytime soon, since there may be plenty of time left on your lease. If you signed a month-to-month lease, then either party may give a 30-day notice to terminate the lease for any reason, aside from retaliation or discrimination.
Instead of wondering what your landlord is thinking, you should sit down and talk to him about the improvements he wants to make to the home and whether you can schedule a time frame for them. If you and your husband are planning an upcoming vacation, that would be the perfect time for your landlord to replace the windows. Also, if you work outside the home, you could schedule the workers to come in while you're at work, and leave before you get home. If you need to have your dogs at a day care during the window-replacement time frame, you should request that the landlord cover that expense.
Yours is an unusual question since most tenants typically want improvements made to their rental place, but privacy and your health concerns regarding your asthma should not be taken lightly. If you and your landlord arrive at an agreement regarding the time frame of home improvements, or if these windows are the owner's last project, then put the agreement 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. Information provided is not confidential.