Q: I need your help in understanding what a phrase means in my written lease. My lease states that I cannot terminate my lease in November, December or January and my notice period for terminating the lease is the following: "The notice period is two full calendar months on or before the last day of the existing lease. Notice is to be received by the Management Office in writing unless indicated otherwise herein."
I gave the management office written notice on Feb. 4, 2023, to vacate my apartment by March 31, 2023. My apartment manager told me I cannot terminate my lease for the end of March since I didn't give two full months' notice.
I am confused. Does two full calendar months mean 60 days, so I needed to give them a 60-day notice? Is there any possibility that I can vacate at the end of March instead of waiting an extra month?
A: I understand how the "two full calendar months" notice can seem confusing. It doesn't necessarily mean 60 days because some months are shorter than other months, such as February.
According to your lease terms, if you wanted to terminate your lease at the end of March, then you would have to give your notice before Feb. 1, so either on or before the last day of January. That way you've given the "two full calendar months'" notice of the entire month of February and March, so you would not be required to pay April rent.
You gave your written notice on Feb. 4, which is during the month of February, therefore it is not a notice of two full calendar months. However, your landlord's two months' notice requirement may be considered an automatic renewal provision, which under Minnesota law requires your landlord to give you written notice of the automatic renewal provision in your lease, either by serving you personally or by certified mail at least 15 days, but no more than 30 days, before you are required to give notice that you are terminating your lease.
In your question, you do not mention receiving this notice from your landlord. Therefore, if you didn't receive this written notice from your landlord, then you have a strong argument and should let them know they didn't comply with Minnesota law regarding automatic renewal provisions so you aren't responsible for April rent.
Your lease language referring to not terminating the lease in November, December or January should not affect your termination for March, as you are not terminating your lease during those months. Most courts have held that this three-month cold weather prohibition on termination violates the law prohibiting automatic renewal of leases for 60 or more days, as three months definitely exceeds 60 days.
Plus, some landlords say you can't even give notice in the months leading up to November or until after the end of January, extending the time a tenant has to stay in their lease. However, you should take note that there is a Minnesota law that prohibits a tenant from abandoning an apartment without giving notice during the cold weather months.
Unless the lease is terminating, if a tenant is vacating their rental unit that has plumbing, water, steam or other pipes that could freeze between Nov. 15 and April 15, they must give their landlord three days' notice they are leaving or risk being guilty of a misdemeanor. This Minnesota law doesn't affect your current lease, because your lease is terminating thereby making your landlord aware that you are leaving, and you are not vacating the unit without notice.
You should talk to your landlord and let them know that you are moving out by March 31. Also, just because your landlord says your notice is late, that doesn't mean you cannot vacate your apartment at the end of March. It just means your landlord may try to hold you responsible for April rent since they believe your full two months' notice covers March and April, not February and March.
Most landlords will work out a deal with their tenant to get some form of payment and avoid court fees. If you do work out a deal with your landlord, make sure to get it 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 email@example.com. Information provided by readers is not confidential.