Landlord & Tenant Issues

The rights and duties of landlords and tenants in Minnesota are spelled out in federal law, state statutes, local ordinances, safety and housing codes, common law, contract law, and a number of court decisions. These responsibilities can vary from place to place around the state.

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Legal rights and duties of the landlord and tenant are determined by lease (rental agreement), state and federal laws, and city ordinances. We link to many online resources for landlords and tenants offered by other agencies in Minnesota. You might also find materials at your local law library.

For advice on what you should do in your situation, talk to a lawyer.
Tenants are responsible for paying rent through the lease period. Generally, if a tenant moves out of the property before the end of the lease, the tenant still owes rent for the remainder of the lease period. Landlords can deduct unpaid rent from the security deposit pursuant to MN Statute § 504B.178 or can sue the tenant for the amount of the unpaid rent in Conciliation Court (less than $15,000) or District Court (over $15,000).
 

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Tenant Moved Out But Damaged PropertyA tenant is not generally responsible for normal "wear and tear" of the premises. However, if the damage left behind is more than normal "wear and tear," the landlord may be able to use the security deposit (or a portion of the security deposit) to pay for the damage. The landlord also might be able to sue for damage to property in Conciliation Court (less than $15,000) or District Court (over $15,000).
 

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Laws

 
 
A landlord has a duty to make sure that the apartment or rental unit is fit to live in, kept in reasonable repair, and kept up to state and local housing codes.

The first step in getting repairs made is to let the landlord know, in writing, about the repairs that are needed. If the landlord has not completed the repair(s) (usually within 14 days of the written notice), the tenant may start a court action to get an order forcing the landlord to make the repairs. This remedy is called "Rent Escrow."

NOTE: If there is an emergency, like no heat, water or electricity, the tenant does not have to give written notice to the landlord and wait 14 days.

There may be other remedies available to the tenant. The following links provide additional information. You can also talk to an attorney about housing law issues or do your own research at your local law library.
 

Housing Court Forms

Helpful Links

Laws

 

 
Starting an Eviction Action

Housing Court Forms

Helpful Links

Laws

A mortgage foreclosure can affect renters as well as property owners. Foreclosures sometimes, but not always, involve the Court as part of an eviction case or other civil action to enforce the foreclosure.
 

Laws & Rules on Foreclosure

You should talk with a lawyer to get advice on how the laws and rules may affect your case.
 

Foreclosure Resources

If a landlord locks a tenant out of her home and will not let her to re-enter the property, the tenant may start a court action to re-gain access to the property by filing a Lock Out Petition Form (#HOU702) with the court.
 

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Laws

 
 
Generally, a landlord must return the security deposit, plus interest, to the tenant within 21 days of the move-out date OR give the tenant a written explanation as to why the landlord is keeping some or all of the security deposit. Reasons a landlord might keep the security deposit include:
  • non-payment of rent,
  • damage to property beyond normal wear & tear, and/or
  • other money tenant owes to landlord (for example, for unpaid water bill, if there was an agreement that tenant would pay the water bill).
If the tenant believes the landlord has wrongly kept the security deposit, she can sue the landlord in Conciliation Court to recover the money.
 

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Laws

No heat, water, electricity or other essential serviceSometimes a landlord shuts off a utility (heat, water, electricity, etc.) on purpose as a way to force the Tenant to leave. Sometimes the loss of a utility or other essential service is not intentional, but the Landlord failed to keep up with repairs or pay utility bills. See also information on lock-outs.

In cases of emergency, a tenant may start an action in court for the loss of: running water, hot water, heat, electricity, sanitary facilities (e.g., toilet, shower/bathtub, etc.), or other essential service that the landlord is responsible for providing (e.g., an elevator in a tall building).

The Court usually schedules these types of cases very quickly. The tenant should let the landlord know 24 hours in advance that the tenant plans to take the case to court.
If the court finds there is a problem because of the landlord, the court may:
  • order the landlord to fix the problem right away,
  • order the tenant to make the repairs (and deduct the cost of the repairs from the rent payment), or
  • appoint an administrator to use the rent money to make the repairs.

Housing Court Forms

Helpful Links

Laws

Responding to an Eviction Action

Housing Court Forms

Helpful Links

Laws

A mortgage foreclosure can affect renters as well as property owners. Foreclosures sometimes, but not always, involve the Court as part of an eviction case or other civil action to enforce the foreclosure.
 

Laws & Rules on Foreclosure

You should talk with a lawyer to get advice on how the laws and rules may affect your case.
 

Foreclosure Resources

Landlords often do background checks on new tenants, and they may look at court records to see if there are past eviction cases involving the tenant(s). There are also screening companies who provide this service for a fee. It can be difficult, but not impossible, to have an eviction record expunged (sealed) so that landlords and screening companies cannot see the record.
 

Court Forms

Helpful Links

Laws

Eviction Expungement: FAQ

What does expungement mean?
Why would I want to ask for expungement of my court eviction record?
What is a good reason to ask for an expungement?
When is expungement NOT granted?
How do I ask for an expungement?

Q: What does expungement mean?
Read the law online at MN Statute § 484.014 .
A: Expungement means sealing a court record from public view. If your eviction record is expunged, then someone searching court files will not find a record of your case. The law allows courts to expunge eviction cases, but only in a small number of situations where the tenant can prove all of the following:
the landlord's eviction case was "sufficiently" without basis in fact or law,
the expungement is "clearly in the interest of justice," AND
the "interest of justice" is not outweighed by the "public's interest in knowing the record."

Q: Why would I want to ask for an expungement of my court record?
A: Having an eviction order issued against you can affect your ability to rent another property. Eviction court records may be viewed by the public. Landlords and tenant screen companies often do background checks on people who try to rent their property.

Q: What is a good reason to ask for an expungement?
A: Every case is different, but good reasons to ask for an expungement include cases where:
the tenant won the eviction case started by the landlord.
the parties settled the eviction case with an agreement, and the landlord agreed that he or she did not have good legal reasons for starting the case.
the tenant lost the eviction case by default because he never got the court papers from the landlord.

Q: When is expungement NOT granted?
A: Expungement is usually denied if:
The tenant lost the eviction case for legal reasons and a judgment was issued against the tenant. Talk to a lawyer to find out if and how the judgment can be satisfied.
The tenant did not give proper notice to the landlord of the request for expungement, and/or the tenant did not file proof of proper service with the court within the required time.
The tenant did not pay all rent due before the eviction case was filed, even if the case was resolved (before or at the hearing), and the tenant voluntarily left the property.

Q: How do I ask for an expungement?
A: You can download a Notice of Motion and Motion for Expungement form (#HOU502) to use in asking for expungement of an eviction record. The MN Judicial Branch does NOT publish instructions on the process for eviction expungements. But, see "Expunging an Eviction Case" published by the MN Legal Services Coalition, which has brief instructions.
There is a court fee to file a Motion for Expungement. The fee amount depends on where the case is filed and whether you filed an Answer to Eviction (#HOU202) before the hearing. If you are low income and cannot afford to pay the filing fee, you could ask the court for a Fee Waiver.
Talk to an attorney if you need help with the process or need legal advice. Your county law library might have additional information on expungement of eviction records. There may also be self-help resources available near you. See Self-Help Services in the Courts.
 
 
MN Statute 504B.385 (link here)

Please read the complete instructions before you begin. If you do not understand these instructions, you may need to contact an attorney. Court staff cannot give you legal advice.  


Important Information

A rent escrow action is a legal way for a residential tenant to bring a claim that requires the landlord to make needed repairs or to comply with the terms of the lease. 

The court can only hear cases involving tenants who currently live in the residential property that is located in the court's own county.

A tenant cannot be evicted on the basis of demanding repairs, calling a Housing Inspector or starting a rent escrow action.  The tenant can be evicted for not paying the rent due to the landlord up to the time of filing the rent escrow action or not depositing the full amount with the court at the time the action is filed.  The landlord may allege that there are other reasons the tenant should be evicted. 

One of the following must occur before the tenant may file:
  1. The tenant must give the landlord written notice listing the needed repairs or what part of the lease that the landlord has not completed.  The notice must have been personally delivered to the landlord by a disinterested third party or sent to the place where the rent is usually paid.  It must tell the landlord that the repairs must be made within 14 days or a rent escrow action will be filed and this time period must have passed without the repairs being completed.  Keep a copy of the letter to bring to court.  
  2. A local Housing inspector completed a code violation report and the deadline the inspector gave the landlord to make repairs has passed without the repairs being completed.  The tenant must ask the inspector for a copy of the report.
  3. A local Housing inspector completed a code violation report and the tenant believes the inspector gave the landlord too much time to complete the repairs.  The tenant must ask the inspector for a copy of the report.

Filing a Rent Escrow Action

You must complete an Affidavit of Rent Escrow

Attach a copy of the Code Inspection Report by the inspector OR the tenant’s letter to the landlord requesting repairs.

Pay the filing fee or obtain an order from the court waiving the fee.
       
Deposit with the court all rent money owed.  If you do not deposit the full amount owed, the landlord may file a counterclaim for possession of the rental property or a separate eviction action.  Housing court will tell you what forms of payment are accepted. Personal checks and money orders are usually not accepted while cash or cashier’s checks may be preferred.  


Getting a Court Date

Once your Affidavit has been filed with the court, the clerk will prepare a Notice of Hearing for Rent Escrow and attach a copy of the Affidavit of Rent Escrow and either the code violation report or your letter to the landlord requesting repairs.

A court date will be set within 10 to 14 days after the rent is deposited with the court unless there is a pending eviction action.  If so, both the eviction and the rent escrow will be set for the same date (MN Statute 504B.385s8)


Notifying (Serving) the Landlord of the Court Date (MN Statute 504b.385s5)

Cost of Repairs is $15,000 or less:
  • The court clerk will serve the landlord at the address provided by the tenant. Service will be by first class mail. 
Cost of Repairs is more than $15,000:
  • The tenant is responsible for arranging for personal service on the landlord(s).  Personal service is where the papers are physically handed to the landlord.   Service may be done by anyone 18 years of age or older who is not a party to the case.  The tenant cannot serve the landlord.  Service must be made at least five days but not more than ten days before the date of the hearing.   The person doing the service must complete an Affidavit of Personal Service and sign it before a Notary Public.  This form is available from the court administrator’s office.  The tenant must file the affidavit of service with the court at least three days prior to the court date. 

If Repairs are Made Prior to the Court Date

The tenant must notify the court in writing that the needed repairs have been made, and the clerk will release the rent to the landlord.  The hearing will be cancelled.  If the tenant and landlord enter into a written agreement that is signed by all parties and distributes the rent between them, the clerk must release the rent in accordance with the written agreement.  
The Minnesota Judicial Branch publishes many forms for landlord/tenant disputes, including forms for eviction, rent escrow and repairs, expungement of housing record, and more.

NOTE: the "Statewide" versions of the Instructions and Forms are for use in any Minnesota District Court. Forms listed for a specific District (e.g., District 2, 4, etc.) are for use only in that specific court.

Housing Court Forms - statewide MN Courts
Housing Court Forms - Hennepin County District Court
 

Non-Court Housing Forms

   
 
If you are representing yourself in a housing case in Minnesota, you are responsible for following the same laws and rules as an attorney. Read Rights and Duties of Self-Represented Parties.

NOTE: A corporation or LLC must be represented by an attorney in District Court, which includes having an attorney sign court papers on behalf of the client corporation or LLC. Except: For cases limited to the Hennepin County "Housing Court," MN Gen. Rule of Practice 603 may allow a principal (or agent) of the corporation or LLC to sign court papers or appear in court on behalf of the business entity. Get legal advice if you have questions on this topic.

The following is a list of some of the laws and rules that deal with housing issues in Minnesota. You can get more help with your legal research at Law Libraries throughout Minnesota. County law libraries are open to the public, but hours will vary. Click MN County Law Libraries to see a directory of county law libraries.

Talk with a lawyer to learn how the laws and rules may affect your case.