Q: I am having issues with my landlord not responding to maintenance requests about my sink and complaints about other residents in the building who are not following the rules of the lease in regard to their dogs. I have been having an ongoing issue with my kitchen sink. Every time the tenants in the unit above me empty their sink or run their garbage disposal, their soapy dirty water comes up in my sinks. If I have clean dishes in my drying rack, they are now dirty again, and have to be rewashed. My landlord has come to snake the drains, but that lasts only for about a day or two, and then the water backs up into my sinks again.
I could understand them not coming out when the coronavirus became an issue in March, but after they started handling tenant requests for maintenance issues on a regular basis again, the landlord did not send someone to continue snaking my drains. I called several times but nobody came. Finally I sent pictures of what was happening in my sink to my landlord, and the next day I had a maintenance man who snaked my drain. But now it's happening again. I have asked my landlord to talk to the tenants above me, but he replied that he can't tell them what they can put into their disposal or down their sink drain. I asked that they try something different to get rid of the problem other than just snaking the drains, as that is not really helping, but I got no response.
My second issue is that ever since the landlord has allowed dogs in the building, nothing has been done about telling the tenants to keep their dogs leashed at all times and to make sure that they pick up their dog waste. I have called and complained several times about the tenants in the building not having their dogs on leashes and not picking up after them. I took pictures of piles of dog waste outside the back door of our building. To me, this is a health issue. When I called about that several months ago, I received no response. The no-leash thing is still going on. There are several tenants who let their dogs run loose, not just inside of the building, but also on the property outside, and off the property all through the neighborhood. I don't feel safe when dogs are running loose, because I fear I might be bitten. What can I do to get these issues resolved?
A: Your landlord has a duty to keep the property in reasonable repair, fit for the use intended and in compliance with all safety and health codes. Since your sink backup problem is not being resolved permanently, you need to get that repair addressed. I doubt a daily sink backup violates safety or health codes, but it may amount to a violation of your landlord's responsibility to keep the units in reasonable repair. The dogs that are running loose in your building are most likely a violation of the dog owners' lease terms, but it's difficult to police unless the landlord lives in the building and sees it happening. Many cities, such as Minneapolis, require that dogs be on a leash or restrained while on any city-owned property, including streets, alleys, public parks, school grounds or other public places except areas designated for off-leash activities. Most cities also have ordinances regarding the removal and disposal of dog feces. Dog owners or caretakers are responsible for removal and sanitary disposal of feces, both on their personal property and public space. Keeping the yard and shared space free of feces reduces the chance of disease transmission, and makes using the area more enjoyable and safe for all tenants. Having "piles" of dog waste could amount to a health and safety code violation. Typically, tenants are required to dispose of their dog feces, but since they aren't being held accountable in your building, then the landlord is ultimately responsible.
Since your landlord hasn't resolved your drain repair, and often isn't responding to your requests, you should write your landlord a letter, which can be in an e-mail format, giving them 14 days to fix the drain problem and the dog issues. If it isn't resolved to your satisfaction after 14 days, you should file a rent-escrow action in the county where you live. You should include the letter or e-mail to your landlord, attach any photos of the sink backup and piles of dog feces, along with any other evidence you have regarding the problems. If there is any rent due at the time you file your rent-escrow action, then you should place it with the court. A clerk can assist you with the paperwork and filing. You also can request that your lease be terminated in your action.
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.