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Q Is it true that if a landlord does not give the tenant a copy of the lease within 10 days of signing it, the lease becomes void?

A No, just because the owner or landlord fails to give the tenant a copy of the written lease doesn't mean that the lease is void.

Minnesota Statute 504.012 states that an owner of a building with 12 or more residential units must have a written lease for each unit rented out. Under Minnesota Statute 504.015, a tenant must be given a copy of the written lease, and an owner may obtain a signed and dated receipt, either as a separate document or an acknowledgment included in the lease agreement itself, from the tenant acknowledging that the tenant has received a copy of the lease.

This signed receipt or acknowledgment is evidence that the tenant has received a copy of the lease. The lease does not become void if the landlord fails to provide the tenant with a copy of it.

However, the tenant can use the landlord's failure to provide a copy of the lease as a defense in any legal action the landlord may bring to enforce the written lease, excluding actions for nonpayment of rent, disturbing the peace, malicious destruction of property or a violation of Minnesota Statute 504.181. This defense can also be overcome by the landlord or owner if he or she can prove that the tenant had actual knowledge of the terms of the lease that the legal action is based upon.

Let tenants know of sale plans

Q How do we notify our renters that we are going to place the house they are occupying on the market? Is sending them a certified letter acceptable?

A Homeowners and landlords do not have any duty to notify their tenants that their rental property is going on the market. That being said, it is always a good idea to be upfront and nice to your tenants.

Therefore, my advice to you is to disclose to your current tenants that the property they are renting is going on the market. You can do this by leaving them a message or sending them a letter, but there is no need to send it certified mail.

Disagreeing on value of services

Q I am about to renew my lease agreement on the single-family house that I'm renting. My landlord wants to formally state that I am receiving a discount in rent as compensation for performing certain maintenance duties (such as mowing and shoveling). I am happy to take care of these duties, and if I weren't doing this maintenance, the rent would be somewhat higher. However, I suspect that the discount he's stating ($150/month) is a bit higher than he would actually end up charging me if I didn't do this maintenance. He wants to list this amount for his tax-deduction purposes.

Taking care of mowing and shoveling doesn't bother me (I like the exercise), but what does worry me is whether this supposedly discounted rent would count as taxable income on my part (which I'd need to declare when filing next year's taxes). If that's the case, I want to figure out the math of which would benefit me more: paying taxes on a rental discount vs. paying more in rent but receiving a higher renter's refund.

A The short answer is that any work you perform in exchange for rent is taxable to you as income. I cannot say how this affects you as I am not an accountant and I don't know your whole income situation.

Kelly Klein is a Minneapolis attorney. Do not rely on advice in this column regarding a legal situation until you consult a qualified attorney; information provided by readers is not confidential; participation in this column does not create an attorney/client relationship, and no such relationship is created without a retainer agreement with Klein. If you have questions concerning renting, you can e-mail her at, post your questions at or write in care of Star Tribune, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488.