RENTING AND THE LAW KELLY KLEIN
Q One of your recent questions was in regard to "automatic lease renewals" -- specifically the two-month lease renewal. We just had this very issue happen to us although our lease evidently renews on a month-to-month basis.
It appears from speaking with the property management office that they actually changed their leases from the two-month auto-renewal to the month-to-month auto-renewal, I am guessing to try to get around the Minnesota statute you quoted in the article.
In our case the lease was to end Sept. 8, 2008. They dropped a letter at our door on July 1, which evidently stated first that we could continue on a month-to-month basis at a given monthly rate if we wished to stay beyond the lease. At that point I stopped reading (first mistake) as we are moving out and were very clear to them about this when we moved in. Later on in this letter they had evidently mentioned that there is a required 60-day notice to end the lease requirement.
Three weeks ago I was asked by the property management office if I intended to move out or continue the lease. At this time they told me about the 60-day notice requirement.
After reading your column two weeks ago, I e-mailed them the statute and pointed out to them that the July 1 date was only seven days in advance of the 60-day notice date and therefore was not in accordance with the state statute.
The loophole they are trying to use is that their lease automatically renews on a month-to-month basis and that the state statute addresses leases that automatically renew for two months. Further, they are trying to claim that the 15-day notice is 15 days from the lease end date and not 15 days before the 60-day notice period date.
Do I have any protection under the law here?
A First, the statute governing automatic renewal of leases, Minnesota Statute 504B.145, states that the landlord must comply with the notice provisions within the statute. The statute requires that any notice be given at least 15 days, but not more than 30 days prior to the time that the tenant is required to furnish notice of an intention to quit.
So the argument that the notice has to be given 15 days before the lease ends doesn't apply, unless they are arguing that you could have given a valid notice 15 days before the end of the lease. Obviously, that is not what they are saying.
As to the 60-day notice on a month-to-month lease, many landlords have successfully argued that such a notice is legal.
Many tenants have successfully argued the opposite. I cannot say whether you would prevail, because often it comes down to the way the judge or referee deciding the matter interprets the statute.
I think that a common-sense interpretation would be that anything that automatically renews the lease for two months or more is prohibited, unless the notice provisions are followed. But, there is no guarantee that you would prevail on that issue.
Your more immediate issue is that you are moving, and what happens after that. It looks as though you gave a valid notice, assuming it was in writing, by providing notice prior to Aug. 7.
However, when you move, your landlord will likely withhold the last month's rent from your damage deposit. Assuming that happens, your only recourse will be to pursue the money in conciliation court, arguing that you gave appropriate notice and that you are entitled to the deposit, less any amounts relating to damage, as well as the statutory penalties and interest outlined in Minnesota Statute 504B.178.
If your landlord tries to sue you for other items or reports you to a collection agency, you may have to contact a lawyer who is familiar with consumer rights.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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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