Q: I have a tenant who has overcharged roommates hundreds of dollars on utility bills and intimidated them to the point that I am now losing a great tenant due to the actions of a bad tenant. The unruly tenant has also been smoking pot in my single-family home, which is a direct violation of the lease. I told the tenant she had to vacate and gave her a notice to vacate based on the pot smoking. The tenant agreed and is supposedly moving out shortly. Am I required to treat the house for pot smoke residue, and do I have to return her deposit when she blatantly violated the lease?
A: Whether or not your tenant violated her lease has nothing to do with the return of her security deposit in this instance. Minnesota law states that you may withhold for damages to the unit, beyond ordinary wear and tear, and that you must send your tenant a letter within 21 days after she leaves listing the specific reason for withholding her security deposit or any portion of it. There is no required way you need to list the amounts you’re withholding and the repairs you’re making, other than to identify them in a logical manner. It is good to get estimates for painting due to any smoke residue left behind and for any other repairs that need to be made. However, you are not required to treat your home for smoke residue, but you may want to have it painted, since smoke can leave discolored walls and ceilings. If there is lingering odor, it may be difficult to entice new tenants; however, odor may be easily fixed with air fresheners. You should return any remainder of your tenant’s security deposit, along with simple noncompounded interest at the rate of 1 percent per annum, after withholding only the amount reasonably necessary to restore your home to its condition at the start of her tenancy, excluding ordinary wear and tear. You can also withhold any amount the tenant owes for past rent or other funds owed to you based on an agreement with your tenant.
Pets and pests
Q: In a pet-friendly building, is the owner responsible for pest control?
A: Whether or not the owner of the building or the owner of the pet is responsible for pest control depends on the language in your lease, and whether or not the pest problem can be attributed to the tenant. There is an implied warranty of habitability written into every lease, which means that landlords must keep the building and the units fit and in reasonable repair, except when the disrepair is caused by the tenant or a person under the tenant’s control, such as a friend or visitor.
Typically, a pest problem is the landlord or building owner’s responsibility, unless they can prove the tenant caused the infestation. Most owners or landlords that allow pets also charge their tenants additional fees, which are intended to cover anticipated costs such as pest control related to the pets. Fees need not be refundable so long as they are clearly identified as such in the lease (“non-refundable pet fee”), but security deposits must be returned according to Minnesota law, even if they are defined as “non-refundable deposits” in the lease.
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.