Q: I rent in St. Louis Park, in an apartment building that attracts young professionals and boasts “high-end” amenities. This past Sunday, a water pipe burst. I pay to live in a building where I don’t expect to have issues involving major maintenance repairs.
As a result of the water damage to our unit and floor, we are being forced to move ourselves and our belongings while repairs are underway. The building is offering temporary housing that includes its vacant units, but tells us that it will not help with any moving expenses.
Our renter’s insurance company was very surprised to hear that the building is not covering the expenses associated with moving. Is this typical? Is it appropriate to ask the building to cover at least our $500 deductible? My expectation is that I should not pay rent on a temporary unit while my unit is being repaired.
The building has a third party working on the damage. The third party was given keys to our unit, and has entered multiple times and moved a significant amount of our property without consent. In reading through our lease, we authorize the landlord to enter our building without warning in the case of an emergency. Does this extend to a third party, or am I right in feeling that our lease terms have been violated?
A: Minnesota law requires that an owner or landlord must provide an apartment that is habitable and in reasonable repair during the term of your lease, except if the disrepair has been caused by the tenant. If an apartment becomes uninhabitable, the landlord has violated or breached the lease.
There are no legal requirements specific to moving expenses; however, you should request that your building cover the $500 deductible. Typically, buildings do not cover moving expenses in situations such as this, unless the tenants have to move into another building. You didn’t mention how long you were going to be displaced or if you were moving into another building.
You should request a rent abatement or reduction on your rent for the month you are displaced, but you cannot stop paying rent due to water damage in your apartment. If the water damage doesn’t get repaired adequately in two weeks, then you have the opportunity to file a rent escrow action.
According to Minnesota law, your landlord has not violated your lease terms by allowing maintenance workers into your unit to complete repairs. Minnesota law allows a landlord to enter the apartment 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 third parties performing maintenance work in your apartment.
However, if you don’t like that your furniture is being moved around without your approval, then it is reasonable to request that your landlord give you a couple hours’ notice before maintenance workers enter your apartment and move your furniture or make repairs to the place.
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, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Information provided by readers is not confidential.