Rights and Responsibilities
Tenant Rights and Responsibilities
Rent: The tenant must pay the amount of rent on the due date specified in the lease. If the tenant does not pay the rent, the landlord may take legal action to evict the tenant. If the tenant moves out before the lease ends, she or he is still responsible to pay the rent for the full term of the lease unless another tenant can be found to pick up the balance of the lease. However, the landlord must agree to release the original tenant from the lease.
Unlawful Destruction of the Property: The tenant may not abuse the rental property and must pay for any damages the tenant causes beyond normal wear and tear. A landlord may sue a tenant for willful and malicious destruction of residential rental property.
Right to Privacy: Generally, a landlord may only enter a tenant unit for a reasonable business purpose, after making an effort to give the tenant proper notice. If a landlord violates this law, the tenant can take the landlord to court to break the lease, recover the damage deposit, and receive a civil penalty for each violation.
Examples of reasonable business purposes include:
Showing the unit to prospective tenants.
Showing the unit to a prospective buyer or insurance agent.
Performing maintenance work.
Showing the unit to state or local authorities (i.e., housing, health or building inspector).
Checking on a tenant causing a disturbance within the unit.
Checking on a tenant the landlord believes is violating the lease.
Lockouts: A landlord can only evict tenants after filing an unlawful detainer action. They can never throw you out of your home without a court order. It also is against the law for a landlord to lock a tenant out of his or her rental unit.
Landlord Rights and Responsibilities
Certificate of Rent Paid: The State of Minnesota gives tenants a partial refund for the property taxes they pay indirectly through their rent. Your landlord must give you a Certificate of Rent Paid (CFP) by January 31 of each year.
Maintenance: According to Minnesota law, the landlord is responsible to make sure that the rental unit is:
Fit to live in
Kept in reasonable repair
In compliance with state and local health and housing codes
Housing Codes: Most cities in the Twin Cities area have a housing maintenance code that outlines the minimum health and safety requirements for rental housing in that area. All landlords must comply with the housing codes in their city. Specific maintenance responsibilities include but are not limited to:
Basic requirements for the maintenance of exterior structures such as windows, outside stairs, porches, the roof, walls and foundation of the building
Basic requirements for the maintenance of the interior structures such as basements, stairs, floors and ceilings
Maintenance of basic facilities such as toilets, sinks, water and heating
The extermination of insects or rodents
Compliance with fire or safety codes
Weatherization of rental units
If a tenant has trouble getting the landlord to make necessary repairs in the unit, there are several steps a tenant can take. Before resorting to any of these steps, it is always a good idea to first speak directly to your landlord about repairs and to follow up the conversation with a letter. The letter should include a list of repairs needed, a deadline allowing a reasonable amount of time (usually 14 days) within which the repairs must be made, the date and your signature. Send all letters by certified mail; return receipt requested. The post office will return a receipt to you, signed by the recipient, to prove that the letter was received. Keep a copy of all letters you send. Below are further actions a tenant can take:
Call an inspector: If a local housing, health or fire inspector is called by the tenant, and the inspector finds code violations, the inspector will give the landlord a certain amount of time to correct them. If the landlord does not make the repairs, the inspector can summon the landlord to appear in court. A landlord cannot retaliate by filing an eviction notice, or by increasing rent, or decreasing services because a tenant contacts an inspector. A list of inspectors is located in the appendix of this guide.
Rent Escrow: If a letter is sent to a landlord detailing repairs that need to be made in a specific amount of time and this is not done, a tenant can place their rent in an escrow account. Under rent escrow law, tenants can pay their rent to a court administrator and ask the court to order the landlord to make the repairs. However, if the full amount of the rent has been deposited with the court, the court administrator will schedule a hearing to determine the proper course of action. It is advised that you seek legal advice (see Appendix) before pursuing any of these options.
Rent Abatement: Rent abatement asks for a portion of rent to be refunded because defects of the rental unit have made it less valuable. Before suing for rent abatement, the tenant should try to get the landlord to make the repairs. Only after it appears the repairs will not be made, and further requests seem fruitless, should the tenant try to bring a legal action for rent abatement. The tenant should then be prepared to prove:
- The existence of a serious condition(s) affecting safety, health or the fitness of the dwelling as a place to live.
- The landlord was notified, or knew, or should have known, about the defective condition(s).
- The landlord failed to repair the defective condition(s), or repair it adequately, after having a reasonable time to do so.