Q: I live in a side-by-side duplex in Minneapolis, and both units are owned by the same landlord. Earlier this summer, the other side of the duplex started renting out on Airbnb and bringing in very unsafe guests. We consistently had Airbnb guests pounding on our door at night, saying they had rented a room from us, doing drugs on our patio and being very loud. On two occasions we had to threaten to call police to get people off our side of the property and off our patio.
Airbnb rental is not allowed in our lease. I have contacted the landlord three times about this issue. In all cases, he said that our neighbor had only family members staying over. When it came time to renew our lease, our landlord told us the issue was completely resolved and that he had worked with the neighbor on not renting a room or his duplex on Airbnb. This was a written condition for us to renew our lease, and we put it in an e-mail requiring assurance that the issue was resolved.
We have had similar incidents occur again involving the neighbor. Today I looked and found the listing on Airbnb again, with many renters having stayed there within the past few months, after the landlord said the issue was resolved. The comments indicate how terrible the property's condition is, along with guests reporting being verbally abused by our neighbor, and the neighbor using illegal drugs, which we have observed on many occasions.
After reading your article, I also did some digging with 311 and learned that our landlord does not have a rental license for the property. Lastly, the landlord has promised improvements with rent increases every year, but has not completed them. This year we had our landlord write the improvements into the lease, but they still have yet to occur.
I would like to break our lease and find a new place to live that is safe and with a respectable landlord. What are my options, given this situation?
A: There are several issues in your question. The most important issue to address, so that you are able to terminate your lease early, is that your landlord has violated the terms of your lease by agreeing in electronic mail to no more Airbnb rentals in the adjoining property. Since the Airbnb rental next door violates the agreement that you have with your landlord, you can request an early termination of your lease.
There may be additional violations of your lease, due to illegal activity occurring in the adjoining unit, along with promises of improvements to your unit made as a condition of renewing your lease, but then no updates being completed.
In Minneapolis, there is a city ordinance that requires landlords to have a rental license for any dwelling where the owner is not occupying the unit, even if the tenant isn't required to pay any rent or if a relative is living there. Landlords aren't allowed to collect rent if they don't have a rental license, which is required by the city. Sometimes a city will allow the landlord time to purchase a rental license, but other times a landlord may be fined for not having a license.
You should contact your landlord and request that your lease be terminated early due to lease violations. You should request a written agreement terminating your lease, releasing you from any future rental fees and returning your security deposit. Make sure this agreement is in writing and signed by both parties.
If your landlord won't agree, then you can file a rent escrow action asking that your lease be terminated because the landlord has violated the lease. Also ask that all the rent you paid be refunded, due to the landlord's failure to have a license. Make sure to include all the written communications with your landlord as part of your evidence when you file. It is unlikely that the court will grant the refund of rent in full since you received the benefit of living in the unit.
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 email@example.com. Information provided by readers is not confidential.