Q: We have rented the same apartment for 14 years. Now the owner wants to install new cupboards in the kitchen, update the bathrooms with new vanities, and raise our rent $100 a month for the new amenities. Is this legal?
A: Under Minnesota law, the owner or landlord can update the rental property during your lease but cannot increase your rent until your lease term expires, unless the language in your lease allows for an increase. An owner or landlord in Minnesota cannot raise the tenants’ rent until they give proper written notice. Proper notice depends on the type of lease you signed. If your lease is a definite term lease, then the owner cannot raise your rent $100 until the term has expired, unless the language in your lease allows for rental increases during the term of the lease. If you are on a periodic tenancy, which covers a month-to-month rental situation, or your original lease expired, and you are now considered month-to-month, then the owner must give you a one-month notice to raise your rent $100.
Updates to the property are the owner or landlord’s responsibility unless damage was done by the tenant or the lease language requires tenants to update the property. However, the rent may be raised by the owner or landlord once the tenant’s lease term expires and after giving proper notice. In a few circumstances, there are leases that allow for rent increase during the term of the lease, but these are rare since most tenants wouldn’t agree to the terms.
Q: My son had a reputable mold-testing company come out to his rental property. The results showed mold levels that the company says are unsafe. My son’s lease runs until March, but I want him to move out before the mold makes him sick.
What should my son do to get out of his lease and get his full security deposit back? Is it possible to go after the owner for rent paid while living in this unhealthy environment?
A: Under Minnesota law, the landlord promises to keep the rental property fit to live in and in good repair, which includes keeping the property in compliance with state and local housing maintenance, health and safety laws. Since your son has discovered a mold problem, he needs to contact his landlord in writing, with a copy of the mold inspector’s report, and request that the problem be fixed in 14 days. If the landlord fails to correct the problem in 14 days, then your son should file a rent-escrow action in the county where he lives and request that his lease be terminated and his security deposit be returned. In that same action, he also may request rent abatement for the period he was living in an unhealthy environment. There is a filing fee for rent escrow actions, but it will be waived if your son’s income is very low. Make sure he keeps a copy of the mold inspector’s report, along with his letter to the landlord requesting repairs, since he will need to attach a copy to his rent escrow petition form if he ends up filing a rent escrow action.
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.