Q: I’m a graduate student who has been renting the same unit for four years on a month-to-month lease. Last summer, when I spoke to the management company about locking in a one-year lease, I learned that the property was going to be sold. I was anxious I might lose my apartment right before the beginning of the semester. I spoke with the manager of my building, who spoke to the new management, who allowed me to sign on for another year.
When I signed my new one-year lease, the manager’s copy machine did not work so I did not receive a copy of the lease at that time. I also heard the old manager tell the new manager that the lease would be included in a file with the rest of the leases upon closing of the sale. After the new management took over, they asked me if I had a copy of the lease because they were unable to find mine. I relayed to them what I knew, and then I did not hear back about it.
I know that my lease is up at some point this summer, but I cannot remember exactly when the lease terminates because I don’t have a copy of it. Since I don’t graduate until May 2020, I spoke with the current owner of the property about signing on for another term, but making it a shorter period so that I could move out soon after graduation. They seemed amenable to a shorter lease period because they wanted to stagger their leases. I never did sign another lease because I’ve accepted a job out of state for the summer. My problem is that I cannot afford to keep my apartment here through the summer months if I have to pay for another apartment out of state. It was my hope to negotiate an earlier termination without repercussion. I found out that another tenant left before their year lease was over because the landlord had lost their lease, too. I e-mailed the owner to request a copy of my lease, so I could figure out exactly when my lease ends this summer. Instead of an e-mail reply, I received a text from the landlord stating that I had a 60-day-notice lease. We exchanged a few more messages, and he basically told me that the notice period was not attached to a specific month, and that all I had to do was give a 60-day notice prior to whatever month I chose to move out. He also said that I would get my deposit back in 21 days after I end the lease.
I believe the new management has lost my lease, but it lines up with my hope to move out at the end of May 2019 now, and their hope to stagger their leases. My concern in relying on this, however, is that the landlord will try and keep my deposit or otherwise seek an action against me for breaking my lease if he happens to find my one-year lease ending in a later month, such as June or July, after I have moved out in May. It seems a little shady to me that management is not e-mailing me back in a reply, but instead texting me. Is this 60-day-notice lease, which my landlord has told me I have in a text, valid?
A: When there is a written lease, landlords cannot enforce the terms of their lease against a tenant when they have not provided a copy of their lease to the tenant and the tenant does not know about the lease term. Since your landlord is unable to provide you with a copy of your lease, and is texting you that it’s acceptable to terminate your lease in May 2019 just by giving a 60-day notice in writing, then those terms should be valid to end your lease in May 2019. You should take screen shots of the conversation, and e-mail them to yourself and save them, so you have a copy for future reference. It may be best to save screen shots of the entire conversation. You also could send your landlord a letter, in which you confirm that you received the text saying that a 60-day notice is sufficient to end your current lease, and keep a copy for your records. If your landlord does not object, then you have confirmation.
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.