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Q: I recently signed for an apartment that I was very excited about, but then decided against it after seeing the building that I would be living in and realizing that it reeked of smoke and a musty, moldy smell. The complex markets itself as a smoke-free community, an issue that I asked several questions about, and I also asked specifically about mold as I had seen a Google review talking about mold issues.

I was assured that neither issue would be a problem, and that previous management had dealt with a mold issue but resolved it. When I signed, it was high pressure and they said that I could not see the unit because somebody was living there. Therefore, I didn't even see the building that I would be living in. In the main building where they showed me another unit, I even asked if anyone else was smelling smoke, and the salesperson said that I was probably smelling burnt coffee from the Starbucks below.

When I was shown my building for the first time and realized the smell was still there, I brought it up to the person who was showing me the building, and he acknowledged that it smelled like cigarettes and that he would look into it. You can go most places in the building and take note of these smells, and I frankly don't feel comfortable living in a building that has poor air quality, particularly as I specifically asked these questions.

I was told that I cannot break my lease, but that I could sublet the place. However, I feel like I was scammed and would really like my money back as this is not at all what I had signed up for, particularly for the high rent I'm required to pay here. I'm wondering if you can provide some advice.

A: You did not mention the length of the lease you signed and whether or not you already moved in. Your problem is you signed a lease which required that you pay rent whether you live there or not. Minnesota has not yet adopted the rule that requires landlords to find other tenants to replace a tenant that is breaking a lease, but most courts in Minnesota will generally require that a landlord try to limit the damages claimed in situations such as these.

You should first try to negotiate with your landlord to return your money and cancel your lease. Let them know that they may be committing a lease violation by stating the building is smoke-free when it really is not. You as the tenant will not be receiving a smoke-free rental unit, which is what they promised in the lease, negotiations and walk-through, and it is a big reason why you entered into the lease agreement with them in the first place.

Let the owner or landlord know that if you don't get your security deposit and any other funds, such as first month's rent, returned immediately, you will be filing a claim in conciliation court. Then, if they do not return your money as you requested, you should file a claim in conciliation court in the county where the building is located.

In this claim, you should request that your deposit and any other funds be returned due to their lease violation. You should attach any written evidence or other proof you have that will support your claim.

Remember, if you decide to work out a deal with your landlord, make sure to get it in writing and signed by both parties. You should also consider contacting an attorney or a tenants' rights organization such as HOMELine for further assistance. HOMELine's free tenant hotline is 612-728-5767, or toll-free from outstate Minnesota at 866-866-3546, and the website is

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 Information provided by readers is not confidential.