HousingLink Blog

Shannon's Story: What to do when a landlord won't make repairs

by Josh Dye  |  Jul 25, 2016, 21:19 PM

Shannon moved into her apartment three months ago, and now her refrigerator is broken and she noticed an unsafe level of mold around the baseboards. And there are 9 months left on her lease.

She asked the landlord in writing to repair the refrigerator and take care of the mold problem. By law the landlord has 14 days after receiving the letter to make the repairs, but Shannon has heard nothing and seen no action.

How frustrating!

Shannon didn't know what to do, so she asked her friends over coffee how they would handle it.

Beth, after taking a sip of her caramel macchiato said, "I would stop paying my rent until the $&%&$* landlord fixes the place!"

Kathleen, enjoying espresso, chimed in, "I would move out. That will teach him a lesson!" #MovingOUT #BadLandlord

Megan, after finishing her Irish coffee, offered, "I would take a bunch of pictures and post them on Instagram." #Mold #HateMyApartment

Realizing that sometimes friends have the worst advice when it comes to a legal matter like renting an apartment, Shannon decided to see what MN Landlord Tenant Law says.

She learned that the right decision was to file a Rent Escrow Action.

"Who knew?!" Shannon exclaimed. "I am so glad I protected myself from making a huge mistake by taking the time to learn my rights. Had I followed Beth or Kathleen's advice, the landlord could have evicted me. What a nightmare!"

Rent Escrow Action in short:

  1. Go to the courthouse where you live and file a rent escrow action. Deposit your full rent payment with the court.
  2. A court date is set 10 - 14 days after the money is deposited.
  3. Notify the landlord of the court date. If the cost of the repair is less than $15,000, the court will let the landlord know by mail (at the address the renter gave the court) the date. If the repair is more than $15,000, the renter has to physically hand the papers to the landlord at least 5 days but not more than 10 days before the court date.

Ramsey County has a helpful rent escrow action guide here.

Hennepin County tells you how to file a rent escrow action at the bottom of this page.

Same Tenant. Bed Bugs 3 Times! What Would You Do?

by Josh Dye  |  Feb 5, 2016, 10:05 AM

A landlord recently contacted HousingLink with this dilemma:

"I have tenants that still have 6 months left on their lease. Since they moved in, bed bugs have infested the unit 3 times! This unit never had bed bugs before.

Each time we used a professional pest control company to use heat treatment. The company also did a follow up inspection a month after to confirm it worked.

I would like to avoid the expense and complication of eviction (and another bed bug problem), but still have the tenants move out before the lease is up. Here is what I am considering:

A "cash for keys" arrangement where the tenancy is mutually terminated, and I give them their security deposit back plus $600 (their rent amount) to encourage them to find another place to live."

Your turn! What would you do if you were this landlord? Here were some of your answers:

"Add an addendum to the lease that limits the amount you pay for pest control."
~ J

"It is probably not three separate problems, but failure to eradicate the bugs entirely. They are very difficult to get rid of, even with professional help. Sometimes using a month-to-month lease is the best way to go."
~ Raymond

"I recently had bed bugs in one of my rentals so this hit home to me!  Here's how I handled it:

 In my lease it states that if a tenant brings bed bugs into the residence that they are responsible for removing them. I also have a clause in my lease that used furniture cannot be brought into the unit (I do make exceptions for furniture from relatives).

So when my tenant reported potential bed bugs I found a place that would bring out a dog to verify the existence of bed bugs for $75.  My tenant paid for this. 
The treatment was a little over $1,000 and my tenant doesn't have a lot of extra money.  My tenant suggested that he wait a month or two so he could save up and pay for the treatment.  
Since this could spread I suggested the following:  I pay the $1,000 and my tenant pays me and= additional $333/month for the next 3 months and we get this taken care of immediately. My tenant was very happy with this arrangement.  We're in month 2 now and I have gotten 2/3 of my money back.  So far bed bug free!"

"Under the ‘cash for keys' proposal, there is no guarantee the tenants will move when mutually agreed upon, if they move at all. Also, ‘promises’ to move might go on for some time, and the tenants could still claim they’re entitled to their security deposit.
However, if you think the tenants are trustworthy, draw up the agreement, covering all your bases.  Include a clause that states if they haven’t moved by the agreed upon date, they will not get their security deposit back, and no $600 incentive either."
~ Ben

When Should a Renter Pay an Application Fee?

by Rick Galster  |  Sep 18, 2015, 08:30 AM

Have you felt the pain of getting denied an apartment and losing out on application fees? This is common for renters with difficult criminal, credit, or rental histories. There are only 2 situations when you should submit an application and pay the fee:

  1. When you are 100% sure that you meet the landlord's rental criteria (income, credit, criminal, and rental history).
  2. When you have talked with the landlord about how you don't meet their criteria, but he or she is willing to make an exception for your specific situation.

Only submit an application or pay the fee if you meet the landlord's rental criteria or they are willing to make an exception for your background. This will save you a lot of money when searching for a place to rent.

In Minnesota, if a landlord charges an application fee they must provide their rental criteria in writing. Ask to see the criteria if they don't provide it. Make sure to know the following things about your background before you start searching for an apartment:

  • Your gross monthly income (before taxes are taken out). This is the number landlords use to determine if you meet their income requirements.
  • Your credit score. This is available through the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Trans Union, or Equifax for a fee. Credit Karma is a free service you can try.
  • Your criminal background. Know specifically what is on your record (felony, misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, etc.)
  • Your rental history. Rental history includes public records like evictions and what previous landlords say you were like as a renter (late rent, noise complaints, property damage, etc.)

If your background meets the landlord's rental criteria, go ahead and apply! If not, tell the landlord which parts of the criteria you do not meet. Then explain how you are working to make things better, and why what happened in the past will not occur again. Ask the landlord if they will make an exception to their criteria and allow you to rent the apartment.

Remain patient! If you have a challenging background, it will take longer to find a landlord who will work with you. But make sure that you don't waste money on application fees in the process! Only apply if you meet the criteria OR the landlord is willing to work with your specific situation.

Changes to MN Domestic Violence Statute Impacts Landlords

by Rick Galster  |  Sep 18, 2015, 08:29 AM

Thanks to the Minnesota Multi Housing Association for this legislative update!

The law originally passed in 2007 allowing victims of domestic abuse to terminate their leases in certain circumstances was significantly amended. The following changes became effective August 1st, 2014:

Termination - Previous Law
The tenancy terminates on the date specified in the written notice ONLY for the resident exercising rights under the statute. Others living in the unit continue with the tenancy according to the terms of the lease.

Termination - New Law
When any resident exercises termination rights under the statute, the entire tenancy terminates for ALL RESIDENTS in the rental unit. For sole residents, the tenancy terminates on the date specified in the required written notice. For multiple residents, the tenancy terminates at the end of the month OR the end of the rent interval in which one resident terminates the lease. A resident whose lease was terminated due to a co-resident terminating the lease under the law, may reapply to enter into a new lease.

Payment - Previous Law
The resident must pay an additional amount equal to one month's rent in order to receive the protections provided under the statute.

Payment - New Law
All residents forfeit all claims for the return of the security deposit under the new law. Even if there are multiple residents on the lease, the entire security deposit is forfeited. Residents remain responsible for the full month's rent in which the tenancy terminates, and for other amounts owed to management at the time the lease is terminated under the law, including delinquent and unpaid rents.

Types of Victims Covered - Previous Law
Only victims of domestic abuse are covered.

Types of Victims Covered - New Law
In addition to victims of domestic abuse, the new law covers victims of criminal sexual conduct and stalking.

Documentation - Previous Law
Only orders for protection or no contact orders are document permitted for use.

Documentation - New Law
In addition to orders for protection and no contact orders, writing produced and signed by court officials, law enforcement officials, and the following qualified third parties as defined by statute:

  • Licensed health care professionals
  • Domestic abuse advocates
  • Sexual assault counselors

The statement by a qualified third party must attest to certain statements, and requires them to disclose their name, business address, and business telephone number.

Written Notice - Previous Law
Residents seeking statutory protection must provide written notice to management stating:

  • The tenant is imminently fearful of domestic abuse from a person named in a no contact order or order for protection
  • In order to avoid imminent domestic abuse, the tenant needs to terminate the tenancy.
  • The specific date the tenancy will terminate

Written Notice - New Law
In addition to the items required in the previous law above, the written notice must now include written instructions for the disposition of any remaining personal property in the rental unit, in accordance with the statute addressing resident's abandoned personal property. Management may request the name of the perpetrator if the resident is informed that the name is sought to protect other residents in the building. The resident may decline to provide the name of the perpetrator, and disclosure of the name cannot be a precondition of terminating the lease.

The new law also provides a means for management to expedite an eviction action by dividing the lease and removing a resident engaging in domestic abuse, criminal sexual conduct, or stalking against another resident in the rental unit. Finally, under the new law, management is prohibited from evicting a resident solely on the basis of being a victim of domestic abuse, criminal sexual conduct, or stalking.

Destructive Renter...What YOU Would Do

by Unknown  |  Jan 9, 2014, 11:33 AM

In the December edition of our Landlord Link e-newsletter (email jdye@housinglink.org to subscribe), HousingLink shared a story about a destructive renter and asked how our readers would handle the situation. Here were their answers (NOTE: The opinions expressed and shared are not endorsed by HousingLink.)

John (Attorney): "I would have filed an order for protection action with the court to have this tenant immediately removed from the property, and at the same time I would have served the eviction action. Assuming the judge grants the order for protection (based on the facts of this situation), the tenant would get arrested on the spot if he came within so many blocks of the property. With the tenant out of the property the eviction would have went much better, and the landlord wold not have been blackmailed by the tenant to pay him money."

Linda (Landlord): "Before renting to anyone, know the legal rights of both the landlord and renter. I have a duplex that I rent and knowing the laws is very helpful. Given the property damage and hotel expenses, the owners in this case would have spent less to evict him. I always take before and after pictures of my properties and date them. People often think they have to have an attorney for everything, but many things are simple enough. Take time to educate yourself on the in's and outs of property management."

Diana (Code Enforcement Officer): "It is unfortunate when the law used to protect us is used by someone for harm and in violation of the lease they signed. It sounds like the owners of the home followed the law in an effort to have the roommate removed from the home. Taking the advice of the Police Department and leaving the home for the remainder of the roommates' tenancy was a wise choice. Personal safety and security is a top priority. A thorough background check and contacting rental references is a must when renting property. While there is a never a guarantee that you will have a good experience, previous evictions are a red flag."

Leo (Landlord): "Sue the renter for the property damages. Start with small claims court and if that is not enough, go higher."

Fran (Landlord): "I would try to put him in jail for destroying personal property."

Sara (Landlord): "The state laws need to be changed to help people who have to live with this kind of behavior. Landlords are thought to be the bad guys. The only way to do anything about these situations is to work with state legislature. We need to make this kind of behavior illegal and punishable by law. What I see in these photographs is a crime. It is called constructive vandalism. If we had penalties attached to it people would not be inclined to do it. The man in the basement knew what he was doing because he has done this to others. With the way the laws are now he will continue to do it. It is his lifestyle and what he does for a living. It is actually how he makes his money. We can all work on getting this kind of thing a crime by working with state legislation. The cops will do nothing because there are not enough laws surrounding the subject. I know because I deal with this all of the time."

Robert (Landlord): "Realizing the written/oral agreement needed to end, the following steps should been taken. 1. Write a termination letter to be given or placed in plan view for the tenant. This should include Your Name,address and signature are required as is the Tenant(s) name and property. Reason for termination in this case I would indicate month-to-month and any additional charges. Only because it was not a basement that could be legally rented for living making your lease unenforceable. 2. Hand deliver the termination letter to the unwanted Tenant(s) or post it on the door to his/her room or another area of plan view. Although move in occurred in July ending November 15th, I would have presented letter sometime in August between 15th and new month beginning. 3. Make copies of letters to get notarized by court administrator and have delivered by a third party.Such as a process server of sheriff. 4. Appear in court with supporting documentation ready for hearing. 5. After winning take the judgment to the sheriff and have the renter evicted."

Rick (Landlord): "Under the lease for criminal activity (if you have one) press charges for destruction of private property. At housing court ask the Judge for an imminent eviction (no children) for breaking the lease as a result of criminal activity on the property. With a good judge he or she will give a 24 hour eviction as long as there are no children living in the unit. With no kids in the unit a seven day grace period is not required. I also recommend landlords conduct a thorough background check and refuse to rent to people without rental history. I once had a rental unit damaged when I went through an eviction process. My losses were $11,560."

Robert: I saw this story when it originally aired on the news. I recognized this tenant's modus operandi and realized this was the same person who was renting a room from my mom when she passed away last May. I contacted the landlord in the story and confirmed that this was the same individual. After my mom died, he never paid any rent and refused to leave the property. We had to have the estate sale with him living there because he would not leave. At one point I offered him $600 to leave. He countered with $900. I told him to forget it, and had him served with an eviction. He would call me very politely begging to stay longer, and when I told him no, he would start swearing and screaming at me and tell me what a horrible person I was. He did not leave until the sheriff posted notice that they would be there within 24 hours to forcibly remove him. Later he left me a message asking if I could give him a good reference!

Do you need to know the steps to evict a tenant? See the MN Eviction process here.