Q: I read an article you wrote in the Star Tribune that referenced the fact that people who live in their Minneapolis home and rent out rooms do not need to be licensed. I have rented out rooms in my Minneapolis house for many years, and I also live in the home. While doing so, I have made it safe with smoke detectors, carbon dioxide detectors, air conditioning, heat, salt on walkways and I keep it clean. I have also always responded to any requests from renters to fix or improve things that will make the space safer.
I'm wondering, however, if I could still get in trouble because I have never had my property inspected, nor do I know the details of Minneapolis housing codes on renting. Is it important that I have my home inspected to avoid a lawsuit, even though I respond to any and all requests renters have regarding safety?
A: In Minnesota, property inspections are usually held when the property sells if it is a private residence, or, if it is a rental property, as required by the ordinance covering rental licenses. Many cities in Minnesota require rental properties, where a "dwelling unit" is being rented, to be licensed.
A "dwelling unit" usually includes a dedicated bathroom and some type of kitchen facilities. So, this includes efficiency apartments all the way up to multiple bedrooms and the type of properties are usually single-family dwellings that are being leased all the way up to large apartment buildings. These licensed units are usually inspected on a regular basis, usually every three or four years, as part of the ordinance controlling rental licenses.
When someone rents out a room or rooms in their home, a license may not be required, depending on the number of rooms being rented, the number of occupants, whether they are related and, obviously, whether rooms are being rented or separate dwelling units. Obviously, if no rental license is required, then no inspection is scheduled.
It's possible that someone renting a room could call the city and request an inspection, but I am not sure how the city would proceed if that happened. Further, city zoning codes limit the number of unrelated people who can reside in a house, depending on the neighborhood where the home is located.
From the information you have provided, it does not appear you need a rental license, and are not required by the city to have regular inspections. However, you may want to contact the city to discuss requirements for your particular neighborhood. You could also pay a private inspector to perform an inspection of the property.
If you have any questions regarding a home inspection or would like to inquire about having a city inspection done on your property, please feel free to call the city of Minneapolis at 612-673-3000 or 311 city services and talk to an agent there. They are extremely helpful and can answer any of your questions.
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 by readers is not confidential.