Q: I have been living at my mother’s house for three years. I took care of her until she died in September 2017. My brother, who does not live at my mother’s house, is the personal representative of her estate. He wants to sell the house and has given me a 30-day notice to move out. I am disabled and have been trying to find a place, but the 30-day notice doesn’t give me enough time to find something to fit my financial situation and needs.
He said that if I am not out by the deadline he is going to “kick my ass out in the street the next day.” He has a terrible temper. I feel he should agree to a longer deadline due to the very cold winter weather in Minnesota. Can I do anything legally to get an extension?
A: There appears to be no written lease, and you aren’t paying rent, but you lived in the house while your mother was alive, with her permission, performing important services for your mother. Even though you aren’t currently paying rent, you are still considered a tenant, since you moved in with your mother’s permission and took care of her in exchange for rent.
Your brother, as the representative of your mother’s estate, is now your landlord. He has the right to give you a notice to vacate the unit within 30 days. Assuming he gave you a timely notice, there is little you can do except to try and negotiate more time.
You should contact your brother and tell him you will pay rent for February in order to stay an extra month. Tell him you need extra time to find a suitable place that fits your needs.
In your situation, when there is no lease, the landlord can start eviction proceedings at any time after the 30 days. However, once the landlord accepts a rent payment from you, then your tenancy is renewed for one more month. There is nothing you can do to get an extension aside from discussing the situation with your brother, the landlord, to work out a better arrangement that lets you stay on one more month to find suitable housing. If possible, get any agreement in writing and signed by you and your brother.
Lockouts, utility shut-offs and unlawful ousters are mistakes that landlords sometimes make when attempting to remove their tenant on their own. If your brother removes you without going through the eviction process, he may be guilty of a crime and liable for civil penalties. If your brother does try to remove you on his own, you should call the police, and they will instruct him to file an eviction action. If your brother doesn’t agree to let you stay through February, then he still needs to file an eviction action in order to remove a tenant who doesn’t leave. Your brother may not attempt to remove you from the property by changing the locks, shutting off utilities or taking other action, such as removing your property, or taking off the doors or windows. However, the cold weather in Minnesota in January doesn’t allow for additional time to move out. Your best option is to try and negotiate with your brother in order to stay an extra month. If that goes well, he may allow you to stay on until the house sells. Remember to get any agreement in writing and signed by both parties.
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.