Q: I’m wondering what the law is concerning asking a tenant to vacate when there is no lease. My dad owns a historic property, listed on the National Register, which is divided into separate residential apartments. None of the tenants have leases. One tenant, who is renting the largest unit, doesn’t even live there. He uses the property primarily for storage.

My dad is in his 70s and would like to sell the property. He has a very interested buyer who would like to occupy the largest apartment while restoring the building to its original historic look. But the tenant in the largest apartment has the space so packed with equipment that it is difficult for the potential buyer to thoroughly examine the quality of the property. We cannot even get to the windows to demonstrate that they open.

The buyer wants the property to be inspected, but access is currently an issue because that unit is so packed with equipment. My dad has notified all the tenants that he wants to sell the building and is showing it to prospective buyers. If the potential buyer submits a purchase agreement, how much notice must be given to the tenants, since there is no lease? How much accommodation do the tenants need to make in order to allow a potential buyer access to properly view the condition of the unit?

A: Since your father didn’t provide written leases to his tenants, the tenants are considered to be on month-to-month leases, which are often referred to as periodic or oral leases. Even though there is no written lease in place, Minnesota law states that your father and his tenants have a month-to-month lease, and either party must give proper written notice if they want to terminate the lease.

Minnesota law requires your father to provide his tenants with written notice to vacate one full rental period before the end date. If the tenants pay rent monthly on the first of the month, then, when your father gives notice to terminate their leases, the date to vacate must be for the end of the month, but the notice must be received in the previous month. For example, notice for March 31 would have to be in writing and received by his tenants no later than Feb. 28.

Minnesota law states that owners or landlords can enter their tenants’ apartments if they have a reasonable business purpose to do so. The law doesn’t list all reasonable business purposes, but does give some examples, which include the need to make repairs, along with showing the unit to a prospective tenant during the notice period at the end of the lease. The law states that the owner or landlord needs to make a good-faith effort to give the tenant reasonable notice under the circumstances when entering the unit. You do not have to actually reach the tenants, but you have to attempt to notify them by phone, e-mail or by placing a note on their door stating the day and approximate time you’ll be entering their place. You do not need to give 24 hours’ notice, but it’s nice if you can. You should try to give as much notice as you possibly can.

If your father wants the tenants to vacate, he should give one-month’s written notice to terminate all of his tenants’ periodic leases. He should then post a notice on each of their doors and in the main hallway, with the date and time the prospective buyer will be viewing the building and their apartments. I also would send a separate written notice to the tenant in the largest apartment, letting him know that the prospective buyer needs to be able to easily walk through his unit and have access to the windows. If your father wants legal advice, he could contact the Minnesota State Bar Association at 612-333-1183 for names and phone numbers of attorneys who practice in the area of landlord-tenant law.


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 kklein@kleinpa.com, or write to Kelly Klein c/o Star Tribune, 650 3rd Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Information provided by readers is not confidential.