In Minnesota, as with any other state, if rent is paid in a timely manner in exchange for inhabiting property, a landlord-tenant relationship is established (even without a written lease), and with this relationship comes rights and responsibilities for both parties.
Basic Landlord Responsibilities
Keep the rental fit to live in. The landlord is required to provide housing that is habitable and to make repairs in a timely manner when required.
Quiet enjoyment. The landlord is required not to disturb the tenant’s rights to peacefully and reasonably use their rented space.
Basic Tenant Responsibilities
Pay rent on time. If the tenant does not pay rent in full and in a timely manner, the landlord has the right to take action to end the tenancy.
Cover excessive damages. Tenants are responsible to cover the costs of damages to the property beyond normal “wear and tear”.
With that said, Minnesota varies from other states on additional rights and responsibilities for both landlords and tenants. Minnesota law even varies on both the interpretation of the above rights and the rules on handling violations.
Warranty of Habitability in Minnesota
Landlord Responsibilities. Most US states adapt and apply their regulations regarding the safety of rental housing units in their warranty of habitability. This special-purpose landlord-tenant law usually outlines what kind of responsibilities landlords within that state bear, even when their units are occupied by tenants. Minnesota maintains this kind of statute, though it is applied fairly broadly overall.
Rather than enumerating a list of essential amenities that a Minnesota landlord must provide to their tenant, this state outlines four key responsibilities which may be broadly used to judge the habitability of a rental unit. In essence, a Minnesota rental housing unit must be:
- Fit to live in
- Kept in reasonable repair
- Kept in compliance with state and local health and safety laws.
- Made reasonably energy efficient
The second of these four responsibilities is particularly critical as it can directly impact the other three if it is not properly attended to by a landlord. As such, Minnesota tenants have the right to request repairs to any amenities provided to them at the beginning of tenancy or enumerated in their lease agreement. Minnesota landlords must then make these requested repairs within 14 days or else allow their tenant to take alternative action against them.
Tenant Responsibilities. Tenants in Minnesota are also responsible for keeping their rented space in a habitable condition. Specifically, they are tasked with (among other obligations such as paying rent on time) keeping their unit clean to the extent that no hazards threaten the structural quality unit or the safety of other tenants. If a Minnesota tenant fails to keep their unit clean in this manner, their landlord may request that they fix the issue immediately or face eviction.
Minnesota tenants are also allowed to take certain forms of “alternative action” against their landlord in situations where their landlord fails to maintain their unit’s essential amenities in a fully operational condition. This includes the ability to repair said issues unilaterally and deduct the associated cost from a successive rent payment. This action can only be taken after a certain kind of legal judgement has been levied against the landlord, though.
Minnesota tenants who are faced with an uninhabitable living condition due to a landlord’s negligence may also withhold rent payments outright. During the withholding period, all funds that would have gone to pay rent must instead be deposited in an escrow account, pursuant to the rules outlined here.
Evictions in Minnesota
Should an eviction action be challenged by the affected tenant, Minnesota landlords can rely on the following justifications to support their need to evict a specific tenant:
- Nonpayment of rent – Many landlords allow their tenants to pay rent without penalty throughout a grace period written into their lease agreement. However, after that grace period concludes, a Minnesota landlord may require immediate payment of all past-due rent. Minnesota’s landlord-tenant laws do not require them to issue any notice or opportunity to pay late, either, so a non-paying tenant may be served with an eviction notice as soon as the day after any applicable grace period ends.
- Violation of lease terms – If a Minnesota landlord observes any kind of lease term violation on their tenant’s part, they may inform them of their observations and request a remedy if appropriate. However, Minnesota state law does not require that this kind of notice be provided, so a delinquent tenant may be required to move out as soon as their landlord informs them of their infraction.
- Illegal Acts – Minnesota landlords can seek eviction for numerous illegal acts , including those listed below. Evictions based upon illegal acts do not require any form of prior notice, also, so a Minnesota tenant who commits one of these acts may be forced out of their rented housing unit immediately:
- Sale, production, possession, or manufacture of illegal drugs
- Gang activity
- Use or possession of an illegal firearm
Evictions without a lease. Under Minnesota law, tenants who rent from a landlord without first entering into a lease agreement are considered “at-will” with regards to their tenancy’s permanence. However, unlike in most states, these “at-will” Minnesota tenants actually receive more concrete entitlements to advance notice when their landlord intends to evict them.
For example, “at-will” tenants in Minnesota who rent on a monthly or quarterly basis are entitled to 30 days of advance notice when their landlord intends to evict them on non-punitive terms. Even when a tenant of this type fails to pay rent, their landlord must provide them a 14-Day Notice to Quit that spells out how much money must be paid in order for eviction to be taken off the table. Failure to comply with either of these notice periods will result in formal eviction through a Summons and Complaint motion, however.
Illegal Evictions. A Minnesota tenant is protected from retaliatory evictions that are initiated within 3 months of certain legally-protected actions, such as the ability to report a health or safety code violation to regulatory authorities. These same tenants are also protected from discriminatory evictions, including those that are explicitly or implicitly based on a tenant’s race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, disability, use of public assistance, sexual orientation, or familial status.
Security Deposits in Minnesota
Minnesota’s current landlord-tenant code places the following restrictions on the collection, maintenance, and redistribution of security deposits provided by tenants as a term of their lease:
- Standard Limit / Maximum Amount – Minnesota does not currently set a statutory on how much a landlord can charge as a security deposit. As such, landlords operating in this state can set their security deposit rates as high as they see fit, regardless of how much they charge for monthly rent.
- Interest and Maintenance – Minnesota landlords are required to hold all collected security deposits in an interest-bearing bank account. These deposits must then accrue a simple interest of 1% annually. Minnesota’s laws do not specify how this interest is to be paid out, so it is assumed that it is owed to tenants when they move out and the associated deposit funds are returned.
- Time Limit for Return – Landlords in Minnesota are usually required to return any held security deposits within 3 weeks of the applicable tenant vacating the premises. However, if the tenant is forced to move because their building is severely damaged, condemned, or uninhabitable, their landlord only has 5 days in which to return their rightful security deposit. In both cases, deposits must be returned with an itemized list explaining any and all necessary deductions.
- Penalty if Not Returned on Time – Minnesota landlords who fail to return a tenant’s security deposit in time or fail to provide a proper list of itemized deductions may be forced to pay out twice the deposit’s original value as a penalty. They may also be liable to pay up to $500 in damages to the affected tenants.
- Allowable Deductions – Minnesota landlords are generally only able to make security deposit deductions for issues clearly outlined in the applicable lease agreement. For example, late rent payments and repair costs associated with excessive damage (beyond regular wear and tear) can both be used as justification for making a security deposit deduction in Minnesota.
Lease Termination in Minnesota
Notice Requirements. Minnesota tenants who are currently signed on to a lease agreement with a fixed end date need not provide any notice to their landlord before they move out at that lease’s natural conclusion. Tenants in Minnesota who rent on a periodic basis, though, are required to provide the following amounts of advance notice in writing in order for their termination request to be honored:
- Week-to-Week lease – At least 1 week of advance notice
- Month-to-Month lease – 1-3 months of advance notice, depending on how often the tenant in question makes rent payments
Legally Breaking a Lease Early. Most Minnesota tenants can qualify to break their lease off early if they provide the proper amount of notice and invoke an early termination clause in their lease agreement. However, when this option is unavailable, a Minnesota tenant who still wishes to break their lease early may invoke one of these other legally-supported justifications for premature lease termination:
- Active Military Duty – Federal law allows service members who are relocating due to deployment or permanent change of station to terminate their lease as early as 30 days from the next rent period.
- Unit is Uninhabitable – Minnesota’s broad warranty of habitability law makes it challenging to pin down precisely what an “uninhabitable” rental housing unit looks like. However, if a regulatory authority determines that a unit has fallen into this state, a Minnesota tenant may immediately push for a lease termination. This includes if the landlord in question fails to make necessary repairs in a timely manner or fails to keep the property in question energy efficient within statutory standards.
- Landlord Harassment – Minnesota landlords must always give “reasonable notice and reason” before entering a tenant’s occupied unit. If they fail to do so in accordance with any specific entry policy outlined in the applicable lease agreement, their tenant may be able to claim that their right to privacy has been infringed upon. That affected tenant can then turn around and use such actions as fuel for an early lease termination.
- Domestic Violence – After providing written notice of their intent and proof of their status, a domestic violence victim in Minnesota may request an immediate termination of their current lease agreement. When this request is honored, the terminating tenant must still pay the remainder of that month’s rent, plus an additional month before further payment liability is withdrawn.
Depending on the specifics of an applicable lease agreement or early termination clause, a Minnesota tenant may remain financially liable to pay rent or buy out a lease after successfully terminating said lease. This obligation to pay may be removed if a sublease can be arranged. A Minnesota tenant who finds themself in this situation will need to find a new tenant for their former unit on their own, though, because Minnesota landlords are not legally obligated to assist in the re-renting process.
Rent Increases & Related Fees in Minnesota
Rent control & increases. Minnesota’s current statutory code prohibits any local jurisdiction from instituting any policies that amount to practical rent control or stabilization (except in limited circumstances). Because no cities or towns in Minnesota currently maintain any rent control policy of this nature, landlords across the state are free to charge as much as their local rental economy will allow.
However, Minnesota landlords are required to give advance notice of any impending rent increases that may impact a current tenant. Specifically, a landlord in Minnesota must provide written notice of the upcoming rent increase precisely 1 month plus 1 day before the increase becomes active. This notice should include some justification for the increase, but this is not required.
Rent related fees. Minnesota landlords are usually able to charge any fee they deem necessary for the stable maintenance of their business, so long as a provision describing the circumstances in which that fee may be charged is outlined in the applicable lease agreement. This includes late rent payment fees, which cannot be valued at more than 8% of the applicable late rent payment per instance. Returned check fees are not statutorily regulated, however, so they can be valued as high as a landlord wishes.
Housing Discrimination in Minnesota
Federal Protections. The Fair Housing Act protects tenants from being discriminated against due to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. However, the law does not apply to all housing, such as owner-occupied homes with 4 or fewer units or housing operated by religious organizations.
State Protections. Minnesota’s current civil rights laws provide additional protections to current and prospective tenants while they take part in the housing industry. Specifically, Minnesota protects the following classes of citizens in addition to those protected classes outline in the federal Fair Housing Act:
- Marital Status
- Use of public assistance
- Sexual orientation
Discriminatory Acts & Penalties. The Minnesota Department of Human Rights administers the state’s several civil rights laws, including the investigation of housing discrimination claims on the part of the state’s tenants. This Department dictates the following actions or business practices may constitute a violation of their fair housing standards if the target belongs to a protected class:
- Refusing to rent a housing unit to an otherwise qualified candidate
- Denying loans or other financial services to an otherwise qualified candidate
- Misrepresenting the availability of housing
- Refusing to make reasonable accommodations
- Providing differing privileges or leasing terms
- Conducting background checks on only certain prospective tenants
The Minnesota Department of Human Rights accepts housing discrimination complaints on a regular basis, both over the phone and through their digital portal. After a complaint is filed, the Department conducts an investigation and assists any tenants who were justifiably discriminated against seek litigation to obtain damages. As such, specific penalties will differ from case to case depending on the context and extent of the highlighted discrimination.
Additional Landlord Tenant Regulations in Minnesota
These are just a couple more important Minnesota landlord-tenant laws. Be sure to read and understand them carefully because they are among the most cited when landlord-tenant disputes arise.
Landlord Entry. Minnesota only requires that landlords who intend to enter an occupied unit for a non-emergency reason relating to their primary business operations to provide a “reasonable” amount of advance notice. Though “reasonable” can be defined more concretely in an applicable lease agreement, this standard is generally applied only to occasions where a landlord needs entry to perform an inspection, repair, or unit showing.
Regardless of the entry standards set out in an applicable lease agreement, a Minnesota landlord retains the right to enter an occupied unit without permission or notice in an emergency situation. To that end, a Minnesota landlord may be justified in entering without permission if they feel that not doing so would likely lead to the occupants injury.
Small Claims Court. Minnesota’s small claims court system accepts the vast majority of cases brought between landlords and tenants in that state. In fact, Minnesota has one of the highest limits for accepted cases due to its $15,000 cap on case values in small claims court. Eviction cases are not accepted in this venue, however, and Minnesota county courts are also given the power to set their own maximum for small claims case values.
Mandatory Disclosures. Minnesota landlords are only required to make a couple procedural disclosures to their tenants before their tenancy commences. Accordingly, landlords in Minnesota should ensure that the following information is written into all of their leases or into separate agreements that are signed by each new tenant:
- Lead-based paint. For houses built prior to 1978, federal law requires landlords to provide tenants with information about lead based paint hazards. Read more.
- Managers and Agents. Minnesota landlords must disclose their own name and address to their tenants. Similarly, landlords must disclose the names and addresses for any relevant property owners, as well as any agent that is certified to act on their behalf.
- Tenant Handbook. Landlords in Minnesota are required to inform their tenants that the state’s tenant handbook is available to them at any time. Minnesota’s laws are unclear regarding whether a landlord must provide this guide or a link to a digital edition upon request, though.
- Orders. Before a tenant signs a lease or pays any monetary funds to their landlord (including rent or a security deposit), they must be given a copy of all outstanding inspection and condemnation orders for their property.
Changing the Locks. Tenants in Minnesota may be empowered to change their own locks unless their lease agreement specifically prohibits it. However, landlords in Minnesota are always forbidden from unilaterally changing their tenant’s locks. This is because the state bans lockout as a means of retaliation against a tenant.
Local Laws in Minnesota
Landlord tenant rights are not exclusively governed by state law. Cities and counties may enact their own rules and regulations for renters.
Minneapolis Landlord Tenant Rights
The city of Minneapolis has recently passed a Renters Protection ordinance that requires landlords to use only “inclusive screening criteria” while performing background checks on prospective candidates. This ordinance forbids landlords operating in the city from rejecting a tenant because of their credit score/history, as well as for certain misdemeanor convictions beyond a three year period. More information about this ordinance (which goes into full effect in June 2020) can be found here.