Q: I am leasing an apartment and have nine months left on my lease. Meanwhile, I am working on purchasing a house. When I renewed my lease, the terms in the lease stated that in order to terminate my lease early, I need to pay $1,800, or two times the rent. Does that mean for the month’s rent or for the duration of the lease? I know the agreement was that you have to give a 60-day written notice if you plan to move out or not renew the lease. Any advice?
A: Typically, landlords will insert a clause in the lease stating that any tenant who wants to terminate the lease early must give a 60-day notice and pay two months’ rent. Since you have nine months left on your lease, your landlord could make you pay nine months’ rent, but instead is requiring you to pay only two months’ rent and give notice to terminate your lease early.
Read over your lease, and make sure that the early termination clause exists in your lease, and that you will not be held responsible to pay rent for the nine months left on your lease. I believe two times the amount of rent means to pay two months’ rent and give your landlord a 60-day notice to terminate your lease early. However, without seeing your lease language, I cannot say for sure.
You need to ask your landlord to explain this clause to you so that you know what type of notice and rent payment is required upfront in order to terminate your lease early. If your lease doesn’t contain an early termination clause, and you leave with nine months remaining on your lease, then your landlord can hold you to the terms of your lease and require that you pay your rent every month for nine months even though you have moved out. Remember, if you and your landlord arrive at a new agreement, other than what is stated in your lease, you should get the new agreement in writing and signed by both parties.
Allergies and animals
Q: I read your articles in the Star Tribune and read recently the question and answer about service animals vs. pets. I’m a landlord who suffers from severe allergies to animals that cause health issues. Do I have to allow tenants to have service animals?
A: The law states that a landlord must allow a service animal unless the animal poses a direct threat to others (such as a dog that bites) or causes a fundamental alteration of the goods and services offered to other tenants (such as barking a great deal and keeping your other tenants up at night).
There is an exemption under federal law for owner-occupied buildings consisting of four or fewer units. However, Minnesota law is stricter than the federal law and exempts only a resident owner or occupier of a single-family unit in which the owner or occupier is renting a room or rooms to the tenant(s). Therefore, in Minnesota, you must allow tenants to have service animals unless you are the resident owner or occupier of a single-family dwelling, and you are renting a room or rooms within that dwelling, and you are living there, too.
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.