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Q: I purchased my duplex three decades ago with the intent of renting out the upstairs apartment as retirement income. Now that I am turning 82 in May, I plan to pass some of the tasks of home ownership to a property manager after making some repairs and improvements to the unit.

I've been renting it out to a relative, and I sent her a Notice to Vacate letter. Her email response to me was that she was not ready to move. In addition, her boyfriend moved in with her but refused to sign a lease, and her adult daughter with a young grandson also moved in with her.

No rental payment has been made for five months from any of them. What are my legal responsibilities as a landlord and owner of a property to a renter and non-lease occupants who were given a two-month Notice to Vacate by Nov. 30, 2022, and have not yet left or paid rent for the last five months? How soon can I bring an eviction action? How long is the cold weather rule in effect in Minnesota? Am I required to continue tasks such as shoveling the entrance to the unit, etc.?

When I had contractors come in January, my tenant refused to leave, even for two days, until I had two police officers and family members intervene. This was despite the fact that the contractor and I told her and the toddler's mother that the work involved could be harmful due to fumes, chemicals and asbestos.

I have additional contract work that needs to be done. What is my responsibility to these individuals when a contractor is working in the unit? Do I have to give the standard 24-hour notice for entering the apartment? Do I have to provide alternative housing during construction?

The electric and heating bills for the upstairs unit are separate from my unit and are in her name. Will I end up responsible for those bills if they leave them unpaid?

Q: Your legal responsibility as a landlord and owner of a rental property is to keep the rental unit and all common areas fit for the intended use, in reasonable repair, reasonably energy-efficient and in compliance with health and safety laws. You didn't mention the length of the lease your renter signed, but since you've given her a two-month written Notice to Vacate, it is most likely because her lease term has ended and you need her to move out so you can renovate the unit and rent it to someone who will pay rent.

If your lease requires all adults living in the property to be named on the lease, once your tenant allows additional people to move into their rental place, they have most likely committed a lease violation. Your tenant has committed other lease violations by not allowing contractors into the unit and by not paying any rent for the past five months. Since your tenant's lease term has ended, she has failed to pay rent for five months and she has violated lease terms, you can bring an immediate eviction action, demanding that she be evicted for non-payment, violating the lease and for staying on the premises past a Notice to Vacate.

There are a couple of cold weather rules in Minnesota, but neither applies in your case. Cold weather rules do not prevent a landlord from refusing to renew a lease once the lease has ended or evicting a tenant during the winter months. It's a common misconception that landlords cannot evict their tenants during the winter, although landlords do need to follow the requirements for eviction.

You should continue to maintain the covenants of habitability by keeping the rental unit fit for the intended use, in reasonable repair and compliant with health and safety laws, so shoveling the walkway around your home is a good practice to continue.

A landlord may enter their tenant's rental unit only for a reasonable business purpose and after making a good faith effort to give the tenant reasonable notice under the circumstances. However, there are exceptions to this notice requirement, such as in the case of an emergency when immediate entry is necessary to prevent people or property from being injured due to maintenance, building security or law enforcement issues; to determine a tenant's safety; or to prevent unlawful activity within the rental unit.

Since you are asking about a contractor performing work in your rental unit, that is most likely considered a reasonable business purpose if they are making necessary repairs, installing new appliances and any other required work that must be done. If it's a renovation or repairs that will make the rental place uninhabitable or unfit for the use intended, then you would need to find a comparable place for your renters to stay.

Unless your tenants agree to it, it could be considered a lease violation to renovate your tenant's apartment while their lease is running. However, making necessary repairs is definitely acceptable and giving a 24-hour notice is good, but not always required.

You need to give a reasonable notice under the circumstances, so that means giving them as much notice as you can so your tenants can prepare for it. Giving your tenants a few hours' notice is typically acceptable since the landlord may not always know exactly when maintenance or other repairs can be done.

If you aren't able to leave your tenants a message or give them notice before entering their place, and your tenants aren't home, then you must leave a written note of your entry in a conspicuous place in their home.

Since the electric and heating bills for your rental unit upstairs are separate from your unit in the home and are in your tenant's name, the bills are her responsibility. Under Minnesota law, a utility company cannot recover or attempt to recover payment for a tenant's outstanding bill or charge from their landlord, property owner or manager who has not contracted for the service.

Since you did not contract for the utility service, and your upstairs tenant did contract for the service, you should not be held responsible for those bills if your tenant fails to pay them. For your own peace of mind, you may want to write your upstairs tenant and your other family members a letter letting them know it was a sad and difficult decision, but that you will be filing an eviction 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 Information provided by readers is not confidential.