Q: I am a Realtor advising a client on selling his home. My client’s girlfriend has been living there with him for three years. My client owns the home, and everything is in his name only, including the utilities. His girlfriend has never paid any rent or utilities. She also doesn’t regularly pay for groceries. My client has two children with this woman, who also live in the house, along with the woman’s two daughters from two different relationships. My client is supporting a household of six, and he can no longer afford it. What is the legally required notice that he is required to give his girlfriend to get her to move out before he has to resort to filing an eviction action?
A: This is an extremely complicated issue, involving both landlord-tenant and family law issues. Your client should talk with someone who is familiar with family law to learn his rights and responsibilities with respect to his children and girlfriend. As for the landlord-tenant issues, there are a number of things to consider.
Your client should not summarily change the locks and tell his girlfriend and the children that they need to find somewhere else to live. In Minnesota, it is against the law to lock someone out of their lodging, and your client could end up paying thousands of dollars if he pursues such a strategy.
In an ordinary landlord-tenant relationship, there is either a written or a verbal lease in which one side has a duty to perform services or pay rent. Usually, there is an ending date, the lease terminates at the end, and people move. Frequently, tenants hold over past this day, and continue to pay rent under the terms of the written or verbal lease. In that case, in order to terminate the lease, the landlord or tenant has to give at least one full month’s notice to end the lease. For example, if rent is due on the 1st of the month, and the landlord wants to terminate the lease, then the tenant has to receive notice prior to the 1st of the month, with the termination date being on the last day of that month. If the tenant refuses to move, the landlord cannot simply change the locks. Instead, after the notice has expired and the tenant hasn’t left, the landlord may pursue an eviction action with the courts, which can ultimately end up with the court issuing an order requiring the tenant to move, which is backed up by the county sheriff.
However, in unusual cases, especially when someone is living with friends or family, there can be what the law calls a “Tenancy at Will.” In those cases, when the tenant isn’t required to pay rent, the landlord has to give the tenant at least three months’ notice prior to evicting the tenant. Absent any agreement to pay rent or any sort of written or verbal lease, your client should consider giving his girlfriend a three-month notice to vacate. The notice needs to be given before the end of the month, and needs to be at least three full months. If she fails to move after the notice period runs, then your client can pursue an eviction action, unless the family court directs otherwise. Even though she may leave after the notice period is up, your client should still discuss the notice and the living arrangements with an attorney who is familiar with family law, to make sure that, if he ends up evicting his girlfriend, that this is something the family courts will support.
Rules for showings?
Q: I am a landlord. Are renters required by law to leave a rental home during a showing?
A: Minnesota law requires that a landlord provide reasonable notice in advance of entering the unit. If the tenant is away at the time of entry, the landlord must provide written disclosure of the entry in a conspicuous place. The law does not allow a landlord and tenant to agree to waive the notice provisions in the law, and there is nothing that expressly precludes a landlord from requiring that the tenant be absent during showings. However, it is unlikely that a court would uphold a lease provision requiring the tenant to be out of the unit during showings. Most landlords talk with the tenant, and try to work out times when the tenant will be absent.
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, or write to Kelly Klein c/o Star Tribune, 650 3rd Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Information provided by readers is not confidential.