Q: My landlord has been harassing me. I’ve been trying to deal with him, but I am now on the last month of my lease, and he is having his cousin move in. My landlord has not fixed anything in the house that he was supposed to fix. What should I do?
A: Typically, when renters are not able to get their landlord to make repairs, they send a letter to their landlord requiring that repairs be made within 14 days. Then, if the repairs aren’t made, the tenant files a rent-escrow action in the county where they live. You also can request rent abatement for the months that repairs were not made, so that there is written proof of a request for repairs. When rent is due, the tenant places the rent with the court instead of the landlord, until the landlord makes the necessary repairs. Since you are leaving within the month, this may not be your best option.
Minnesota law protects tenants when a landlord is harassing the tenant because the tenant requested repairs to the rental unit. You must be able to prove that you asserted your right as a tenant by calling an inspector, sending a letter to your landlord asking for repairs, or any other request made to your landlord. Under state law, your landlord cannot then retaliate by raising your rent, filing an eviction, sending a notice to vacate or reducing your services. There must be some proof that your request for repairs caused your landlord to harass you. Since your landlord is having his cousin move into your unit after you requested the repairs, that act could prove your landlord is retaliating against you for requesting the repairs. If your landlord gave you notice to vacate once your lease ends, and indicated his cousin was moving in, that could be proof enough. You didn’t mention what the harassing behavior consists of, but you may need to call the police if it continues. The burden of proof is on the landlord if his retaliation — your notice to vacate — occurs within 90 days after you requested he make repairs. After 90 days, the burden of proof is on the tenant.
You should write your landlord a letter stating that you requested repairs be made and they weren’t. Also indicate in the letter that you could file a rent-escrow action and request rent abatement for the months that repairs didn’t occur. Your letter should state that the harassment needs to stop immediately or you will report him to the authorities. If the harassment continues, you should contact police.
How much notice?
Q: My one-year lease, which ends on Oct. 31, states that if I don’t renew my lease or give 60 days’ notice to vacate, the agreement defaults to a “month-to-month” lease, but that the “duration shall be changed to a two-calendar-month ‘notice period,’ ” and that “management may raise rent.” Does that mean in order to terminate the relationship, either party must give a 60-day written notice as early as late August to end the lease by the last day of October? If that’s true, why call it a month-to-month lease when it’s really a two-month-by-two-month lease? Also, can management announce the raised rent now, or must they wait?
A: After a lease expires, leases become month to month, unless a new lease is signed. Some terms, like the duty to pay rent and abide by the rules in the original lease, continue on. Included in those terms is the duty to give notice as outlined in the lease. However, some landlords want to receive a longer notice period than one month, in order to have additional time to find a replacement tenant. These landlords will then include a 60-day-notice provision. There is some dispute as to whether a 60-day notice is enforceable, because Minnesota law prohibits the automatic renewal of leases for periods of two months or more, unless the landlord follows specific notice provisions for each automatic renewal. Some courts find that a 60-day-notice provision is always considered an automatic renewal for two months and thus unenforceable on an expired lease unless the landlord follows those specific procedures. Others say that 60 days is not always two months, so it’s not a violation. The best option is to give as much notice as you can; if there is a 60-day-notice provision, and you can give 60 days’ notice, then do so. Once a lease term expires, landlords can change the terms, like raising rent, by giving proper notice. They can announce the raised rent before the expiration of the lease, and make it effective the month following the expiration, as long as they give proper notice and there isn’t anything in the lease stating otherwise. If your lease says nothing about raising rent once your lease expires, and you’re on a month-to-month, then the notice period for raising your rent is one month under Minnesota law.
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.