Q My daughter and three other girls signed a nine-month lease last August for an apartment next to North Central University in Minneapolis, where they attend school.
They all vacated the apartment at the end of May, which was also the end of the school year. They did not have any problems during the year with the exception of one roommate who moved out. They found someone else to take her place and were paid up through May. When they turned in their keys, they were told they were still under lease, even though they had given the management a verbal notice they would be moving out.
After their roommate left, they were talking to the apartment manager, who had suggested that after the lease was up, they could move to a smaller apartment. They told her they would be leaving after the lease expired. Here are the details I have been able to get from my daughter that may apply:
• The lease they signed was from September 2007 through May 2008.
• The girls had a discussion with the manager in February in which they stated their intention to leave after May.
• They vacated the apartment by May 30 and attempted to return their keys, but the manager would not take them.
• The apartment management mistakenly had the girls' lease entered in their computer system as a 12-month lease.
• The apartment management did not send out a lease extension option form.
• The apartment management said the extension letter was not sent because of the entry mistake.
• The lease does require a 60-day notice for leaving the apartment at the end of the lease.
What is the next step or likely liability in this situation? After my daughter mentioned not receiving the lease extension letter, the apartment manager did say that maybe they can find someone to move in for them, but I am not sure if failure to send the notice has any legal consequences.
A First, your daughter and her friends signed a nine-month lease. If they have a copy of the lease, then it doesn't matter what the landlord's computer says -- they signed a nine-month lease. As for the 60 days' notice to vacate, your daughter and her friends have two strong arguments.
First, they gave the notice in February. Ordinarily, leases state that all notices have to be in writing. Check the lease. If that is not included in the lease, then they have given proper notice. Even if the lease requires that all notices be given in writing, the fact that they went in and talked with the manager and stated their intentions may be good enough for a judge.
If that notice needed to be in writing, the landlord should have said so when they came in to verbally give their notice to leave. Letting your daughter and her friends think they gave proper notice will not likely be looked upon favorably.
In addition, they have a pretty good argument that the notice provision violates Minnesota Statute 504B.145, which prohibits automatic lease renewals of 60 days or more unless the landlord follows the requirements of the statute.
In this case, it does not sound like the landlord followed the statute at all, and your daughter and her friends have a good argument that the 60-day notice violates the statute. While not every judge interprets a 60-day notice as violating the statute, because the effect of the notice is to renew the lease for two months, I think they have a good argument.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to get in front of a judge. If your daughter and her friends moved at the end of May, they have to wait until the landlord takes action against them by attempting to collect the additional rent or withholding their security deposit. If that happens, they can bring an action in conciliation court and explain the situation. While there are no guarantees, it seems that they have some pretty good arguments.
If the landlord reports them as bad tenants, your daughter and her friends may have a defamation claim. Unfortunately, they will need to find an attorney to help them with that.
Kelly Klein is a Minneapolis attorney. Do not rely on advice in this column regarding a legal situation until you consult a qualified attorney; information provided by readers is not confidential; participation in this column does not create an attorney/client relationship, and no such relationship is created without a retainer agreement with Klein. If you have questions concerning renting, you can e-mail her at email@example.com, post your questions at www.startribune.com/kellyklein or write in care of Star Tribune, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488.
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