Q: I have heard that in Minnesota it is the law that landlords must paint the walls and shampoo carpet between tenants. I just recently moved out of an apartment and was charged a painting fee after two years of occupying the unit. There was normal wear and tear but no excessive damage or markings to the walls. Should we have to pay it?
A: There is no law in Minnesota that requires landlords to paint the units and shampoo carpeting between tenants moving out and new tenants moving in. Landlords usually do paint the walls and shampoo carpets when they need it, and that does occur often between tenants. If there is no damage to the walls but normal wear and tear, you most likely should not have been charged a painting fee. If your lease states that no nails were to be placed in the walls or there was some other restriction that you violated, then a paint charge may likely be considered reasonable. Some tenants leave gouges in the walls from their furniture, and a paint fee in that case may be considered reasonable also. You should contact your landlord and let them know that you shouldn’t be charged a paint fee for normal wear and tear to your walls after living there for two years. If your landlord won’t remove the paint charge, then you can file a claim in conciliation court for reimbursement. If you have any photos of the walls, a move-out checklist or any other evidence that can confirm your walls weren’t damaged, attach it to your claim, but it’s not necessary.
Q: I live in an apartment building in New Brighton. Our elevator has been broken for four months. I live on the third floor and have back issues, so walking up three flights of stairs is not ideal. I have sent the landlord countless e-mails and phone calls about getting the elevator fixed. First they told me they were waiting for parts to arrive. Now they tell me they noticed a water leak from the pool so they are busy with that repair.
There is another elevator on the other end of the building, but it takes 10 to 15 minutes from there to get to my apartment. Is there anything I can do to get them to fix the elevator?
A: Written into every Minnesota lease are covenants of habitability that all landlords are legally required to follow. These covenants or promises consist of keeping the rental property fit for the use intended, in reasonable repair and in compliance with safety and health codes.
Many buildings do not have elevators, so it’s a good thing yours does, given your back issues. However, since there is another working elevator in your building, even though it is a distance for you to walk, that makes the elevator repair less urgent. Everyone in the building would be complaining if there were no working elevator. Most likely you are not the only tenant who wants the second elevator repaired. You could ask a few of your neighbors to assist you in going to your landlord to request that the elevator repair be completed as soon as possible. You should stress your back problems and that you moved into the building because there was a nearby working elevator.
The more tenants that complain, the more likely it is that your landlord will be compelled to fix the elevator. You could request to be moved to a comparable apartment in the building, but one that is closer to the working elevator. That might motivate your landlord to repair the elevator.
Your only other option is to pursue a rent escrow action. Before you do, you have to send your landlord a letter identifying the problem, and giving them 14 days to fix it.
If the problem isn’t fixed, you can go to court and ask that the court require the landlord to fix the elevator. Usually, the court will not get involved if it is not something serious, and since there is another elevator that serves the building, the court may think that is enough. You would have to demonstrate to the court why this is not the case in order to prevail.
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, or write to Kelly Klein c/o Star Tribune, 650 3rd Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Information provided by readers is not confidential.