Q: I recently discovered that over the past few years I’ve had some personal belongings go missing from my apartment. I’ve spoken with other tenants in my building, and they also have had some thefts, with a few considered major. In my apartment, the TV and DVD controls recently were moved, indicating that someone “made themselves at home” while I was on vacation. Our caretaker/manager has a key to all of our apartments in case of an emergency. Any suggestions on how I should handle this situation?
A: Under Minnesota law, all residential tenants have a right to privacy. The law allows a landlord to enter a tenant’s apartment only for a reasonable business purpose and after making a good-faith effort to give the tenant reasonable notice, under the circumstances, of the intent to enter. A reasonable business purpose includes showing the tenant’s apartment to prospective tenants, buyers or an insurance representative. A reasonable business purpose also includes entry to perform maintenance work, to allow inspections, or if the landlord has a reasonable belief the tenant is violating their lease. A landlord also may enter a residential tenant’s place to inspect or take appropriate action, without giving prior notice to the tenant, if the landlord reasonably suspects that it is necessary to determine a tenant’s safety, if the landlord believes unlawful activity is occurring in the apartment, or to prevent injury to people or property because of conditions relating to maintenance, building security or law enforcement.
If a landlord enters when the tenant is not there, and prior notice has not been given, the landlord must place a written note in a conspicuous place in the apartment, stating that the landlord was in the apartment. There is a penalty if landlords violate this privacy law, which may include a rent reduction or even rescinding your lease if you want.
You should place a nanny cam or some type of video camera in your apartment the next time you leave for the weekend. When you return, you will have proof of your manager’s illegal entry and possibly theft. Your manager is clearly violating your and your neighboring tenants’ privacy.
You should contact the other tenants who have complained about missing items, and enlist them to put in a nanny cam the next time they leave on vacation. Once you have proof, you should present it to the owner of the building and request a rent reduction or recision of your lease to compensate for your loss of privacy and for your stolen goods.
You should also check the neighboring pawnshops for your and the other tenants’ personal belongings, which could provide you with additional proof of your manager’s illegal activity.
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.