Q: While I was out of town on vacation, I sent a certified letter to my tenant regarding the termination of his lease, but it was not delivered because my renter failed to open the door. I can reach my tenant by his cellphone, but he never responds in a timely manner. If I deliver the 30-day notice in person, I’d have to go to his place of employment. What is the acceptable way to give my tenant a 30-day notice to leave my rental property?
A: Unless the lease requires personal service of a notice of termination or a notice to vacate, mailing the notice by U.S. Mail is sufficient. You do not need to mail it by certified mail; sending the notice by certified mail may give the tenant the opportunity to argue that the notice was never received. You need to mail such a notice at least one full rental period in advance of the time you want the tenant to vacate, and you need to allow at least three days for mail. For example, if you want the tenant out by the end of September, you need to have sent the notice no later than Aug. 28 — allowing for three mailing days and receipt by Aug. 31.
Some landlords also personally deliver the notice to the unit, and either slide it under the door or place the notice in the tenant’s mailbox. Once again, a notice delivered personally needs to be placed under the door or in the mailbox before the end of the rental period.
Some tenants argue that they did not receive the notice to vacate. In order to avoid that situation, some landlords send the notice by both U.S. Mail and certified mail. Most courts will not accept the argument that the tenant did not receive the notice to vacate if it was sent both by U.S. Mail and certified mail in a timely manner. You should keep a copy of the notice with the date on it for your records, so you have proof that you mailed the notice in a timely manner.
Q: The apartment we were living in had mold, along with mushrooms, due to excess moisture. Maintenance staff for the building would just sweep the mushrooms off the floor with a broom, and deny there was mold. The building management also denied there was mold in our place, and it took us weeks of calling and e-mailing before they finally called a mold inspector. They moved me and my husband into another one of the building’s apartment units. We are now living in that unit while the mold is being professionally removed from our old unit.
We have always paid our rent in full and on time during the period we lived in the moldy apartment. Even though the living conditions were not the best and we couldn’t use our bathroom, we have been great tenants.
We would now like to remain in the new apartment that we relocated to during the mold removal. The floor plan is the same; both studio apartments also have the same lease terms and rent. How can I get management to let us stay in the new place, or reimburse us for the full rent we were paying while we lived in our moldy apartment?
A: Under Minnesota law, once you first spotted the mold, you should have sent the landlord a written letter giving him or her 14 days to make the necessary repairs in order to fix the mold problem in your unit. If the repairs aren’t made to a tenant’s satisfaction within 14 days, the tenant can then file a rent escrow action with the county and request rent abatement or reduction due to the mold. Your e-mail would suffice as written notice. However, it sounds like your mold problem has been cleared up without you having to file paperwork with the court.
You should write to your landlord and state that you would like to live in your current studio apartment for the remainder of your lease. Indicate in this letter that you would like the same lease terms and rent that you had in the moldy apartment, since they are similar units.
You also can request to pay lower rent due to having lived with mold in your previous apartment. However, if the mold was cleaned up within the statutory requirement of 14 days, you most likely won’t get a reduction in rent. You should make sure to get any new lease terms or arrangement in writing and signed by both parties.
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.