Landlords and Tenants: Rights and Responsibilities
Other Important Laws
Background Checks of Property Managers
If the owner of a home hires someone to manage it and that person has access to the home, then the owner is required to do a background check on the person to make sure the manager does not have a criminal history. [Minn. Stat. § 299C.68 (2023)] [Minn. Stat. § 299C.67, subd. 4 (2023).] Background checks are done by the Superintendent of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) and the following guidelines have been established by law for landlords to follow when hiring a manager:
- Someone convicted of: first or second-degree murder; first-degree manslaughter; first, second or third- degree assault; kidnapping; first, second, third or fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct; first-degree arson; or stalking, [Minn. Stat. § 299C.67, subd. 2(a) (2023).] may never be hired as a residential manager and must cease being a manager if hired pending the background check. [Minn. Stat. § 299C.69(a) (2023).]
- Someone convicted of: third-degree murder; second degree manslaughter; criminal vehicular homicide or injury; fourth or fifth-degree assault; simple or aggravated robbery; carjacking; false imprisonment; theft; burglary; terrorist threat; or non-felony stalking, [Minn. Stat. § 299C.67, subd. 2(b)(1) (2023).] can only be a property manager if it has been ten years since the date of discharge of their sentence. [Minn. Stat. § 299C.69(b) (2023).]
- Someone convicted attempting to commit one of these crimes or a conviction for a crime in another state that would be a crime under Minnesota’s background check law cannot be hired as a property manager. [Minn. Stat. § 299C.67 (2023); Minn. Stat. § 299C.69(b) (2023).]
All landlords must request background checks on all currently employed managers. [Minn. Stat. § 299C.68, subd. 1 (2023).] For a sample form, to obtain information regarding a background check, or to begin the background check process, owners and landlords can contact the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, CHA Unit, 1430 Maryland Avenue East, St. Paul, MN 55106, or call (651) 793-2400. Landlords may be required to pay a fee for each property manager background check. [Minn. Stat. § 299C.68, subd. 2 (2023).]
Housing courts in Ramsey (651) 266-8230 and Hennepin (612) 348-5186 counties hear and decide cases involving landlord and tenant disputes. This includes, for example, claims for rent abatement, rent escrow proceedings, eviction actions, and actions for violations of state, county, or city housing codes. Housing courts ensure housing claims are brought before a single, trained referee. This is to encourage consistent decisions and prompt compliance with Minnesota’s housing laws.
Ramsey and Hennepin County District Courts appoint a referee to hold hearings and make recommended decisions. After the hearing in each case, the referee’s recommended findings and orders are sent to the district court judge. These become the findings and orders of the court when confirmed by the district judge. The landlord or tenant can ask the district court judge to review any order or finding recommended by the referee. The person who is requesting the review must file and serve (provide to the other party) a notice of the recommended order or finding. This must occur within 10 days. This notice must explain the reasons for requesting a review and state the specific parts of the recommended findings or orders that are disputed. After receiving this notice, a time for the review hearing will be set. After the hearing the judge will decide whether to accept, reject or change the referee’s recommended decision.
Hennepin and Ramsey County landlords and tenants are encouraged to use the housing courts to resolve housing related disputes that they cannot work out themselves.
Eviction Actions (Unlawful Detainer)
Under Minnesota law, the only way a landlord can remove a tenant is if the court issues an order requiring the tenant to leave and the Sheriff comes to the home with the order (called a “writ”). Landlords cannot forcibly remove tenants by changing the locks, turning off utilities, or any other action that would force the tenant to leave. In order to evict a tenant, a landlord must first bring an “Eviction Action,” or what used to be called an “Unlawful Detainer” action, against the tenant. This is a legal proceeding conducted in district court. To bring this action the landlord must have a legitimate reason. According to state law, legitimate reasons can be nonpayment of rent, other breaches of the lease, or where the tenant has refused to leave after notice to vacate has been properly served and the tenancy’s last day has passed (called a “hold over”). [Minn. Stat. § 504B.285, subd. 1 (2023).]
In general, if a tenant does not pay rent on the day it is due, the landlord may immediately bring an Eviction Action unless the lease provides otherwise. Effective January 1, 2024, the landlord must issue a 14-day written notice before filing evictions for non-payment of rent. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.321, subd. 1a. (2023), amended by 2023 Minn. Sess. Law Serv. Ch. 52 (S.F. 2909).] With proper written notice, a landlord can end a month-to-month tenancy unless the landlord is limiting a tenant’s right to call the police for emergency assistance or retaliating or discriminating against the tenant. Definite term leases can only be ended according to the notice specified in the lease or if there has been a significant breach of the lease and the lease allows eviction for breach.
There are several steps both landlords and tenants must take in an Eviction Action:
- The landlord must file a complaint against the tenant in district court. At least 7 days before the court date the landlord must have someone else serve the tenant with a summons ordering the tenant to appear in court. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.321 (2023); Minn. R. Civ. P. 5.02.]
- A court hearing must take place within 7 to 14 days after the court issues the summons. At the hearing, both the tenant and the landlord will be asked to give their sides of the story. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.321 (2023).]
- The judge will then deliver a decision. If the judge decides the tenant has no legal reason for refusing to leave or pay the rent, the judge will order the tenant to vacate the rental unit. If necessary, the judge will order a law enforcement officer to force the tenant out. If the tenant can show immediate eviction will cause substantial hardship, the court shall allow the tenant a reasonable period of time (up to one week) in which to move. A tenant may not seek or receive a delay based on hardship if the tenant is causing a nuisance or seriously endangering the safety of other residents, their property, or the landlord’s property. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.345 (2023).]
If the Eviction Action has been brought only because the tenant owes rent, and the landlord wins, the tenant can still “pay and stay.” To pay and stay, the tenant must pay the rent that is past due (in arrears), plus interest (if charged), plus a $5 attorney fee if an attorney represented the landlord, and finally, any “costs of the action.” Costs of the action includes the filing fee (now about $325) plus the process server fee, plus witness fees if one was called (subpoenaed) for trial; costs do not include other legal or similar fees for handling/processing the case as those are capped at $5. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.291, subd. 1(a) (2023).]
If legal action is taken because the tenant owes rent, it is a defense for the tenant to produce a copy or copies of one or more money orders or original receipts for the purchase of money orders if the documents:
- total the amount of the rent,
- include a date or dates corresponding with the date rent was due; and
- in the case of copies of money orders, are made payable to the landlord.
The landlord can argue against this defense by producing a business record that shows that the tenant has not paid the rent.
The court may give the tenant up to a week to pay the court costs. If a tenant has paid the landlord or the court the amount of rent owed, but is unable to pay the interest, costs and attorney’s fees, the court may permit the tenant to pay these amounts during the time period the court delays issuing an eviction order (Writ of Recovery). [Minn. Stat. § 504B.291, subd. 1(b) (2023).]
If the Eviction Action has been brought because the tenant has withheld the rent due to disrepair, the judge may order the tenant to deposit the rent with the court. If the tenant wins, the judge may order that the rent be reduced (abated), in part or completely. (Click here for a description of withholding rent.)
To be clear: only a law enforcement officer can physically evict a tenant. The landlord cannot. A Writ of Recovery —which is issued at the time the decision is handed down—must be provided at least 24 hours before the actual eviction. The law enforcement officer can show up to perform the eviction any time after the 24 hours have expired. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.365, subd. 1 (2023).]
A landlord may not obtain a judgment for unpaid rent in an Eviction Action. To obtain a judgment for unpaid rent, a landlord must bring a separate action in conciliation court or district court.
Some tenants who have been evicted may ask a court to remove the case from the court record. This procedure is called “expungement.” In most situations, the law permits, but does not require, a judge to expunge an eviction case from the court’s records.
Currently, following a motion by the tenant, the court may find that the landlord’s eviction case is without merit. The judge may then decide to remove (expunge) the eviction case from the court’s record if the judge finds the expungement is clearly in the interests of justice and those interests are not outweighed by the public’s interest in knowing about the record. [Minn. Stat. § 484.014, subd. 2.] Effective January 1, 2024, the court may order the expungement of an eviction case if the court finds that the expungement is “in the interests of justice and those interests are not outweighed by the public’s interest in knowing about the record.” [Minn. Stat. § 484.014, subd. 2 (2023), amended by 2023 Minn. Sess. Law Serv. Ch. 52 (S.F. 2909).] Therefore, the court will no longer be required to find that the landlord’s case had no merit. [Id.]
Also, starting in 2024, expungement will also be mandatory (required) if:
- The tenant was evicted due to a mortgage foreclosure or contract for deed cancellation and the tenant vacated the property before the Eviction Action was started.
- The tenant was a tenant during a contract cancellation or foreclosure redemption period and did not receive a proper notice to vacate on a date prior to the start of the Eviction Action.
- The tenant prevailed on the merits.
- The court dismissed the landlord’s complaint for any reason.
- Three years has passed since the eviction was ordered.
- The case settled and the tenant fulfills the terms of the settlement. [Minn. Stat. § 484.014, subd. 2 (2023), amended by 2023 Minn. Sess. Law Serv. Ch. 52 (S.F. 2909).]
If a judge orders expungement, a tenant may wish to notify the reporting companies so their reports will be updated quickly. If a tenant screening service (Click here for an explanation of tenant reports) knows that an eviction case file has been expunged, the tenant screening service must remove any reference to that file from data it maintains or disseminates. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.241, subd. 4 (2023).]
Storage of Personal Property
In cases where the tenant’s property is left behind when the Sheriff (or a police officer) is removing the tenant, the landlord must make a list (called “an inventory”) of the property and have it signed and dated in the presence of the Sheriff. A copy of the inventory must be mailed to the tenant at the tenant’s last known address or to an address provided by the tenant. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.365, subd. 3(d) (2023).] The inventory must include the following:
- A listing of the items of personal property, and a description of the condition of that property. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.365, subd. 3(d)(1) (2023).]
- The date, the signature of the landlord, and the name and telephone number of the person authorized to release the property. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.365, subd. 3(d)(2) (2023).]
- The name and badge number of the Sheriff or police officer. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.365, subd. 3(d)(3) (2023).]
The officer must keep a copy of the inventory. The landlord must remove, store, and take care of the tenant’s property for 28 days. The landlord is liable for damages to, or loss of, the tenant’s personal property if the landlord fails to use reasonable care in storing the property. The landlord should notify the tenant of the date and approximate time the officer is scheduled to remove the tenant and the tenant’s personal property from the premises. The notice must be sent by first class mail.
The landlord should also make a good faith effort to notify the tenant by telephone, informing the tenant that if the tenant has not left by the time specified in the notice, the tenant and the tenant’s property will be removed from the premises. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.365, subd. 3(e), (f) and (g) (2023).] According to Minnesota law, this provision may not be waived or modified by any oral or written lease or other agreement. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.365, subd. 5 (2023).]
To Get the Property Back
If the tenant’s personal property is stored on the premises, the tenant may contact the landlord in writing to demand that the property be returned. The landlord does not have a right to keep (lien on) the property. If the tenant’s property is stored away from the premises (at a bonded warehouse or other suitable storage place), the landlord has a legal claim on the tenant’s personal property for the reasonable costs of removing, transporting, and storing the property. The landlord can keep the property in such a circumstance until those expenses are paid. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.365, subd. 3(c) (2023).]
Whether the tenant’s property is stored on or away from the premises, to get the property back the tenant does not have to pay any unpaid rent, late charges, etc. The landlord can sue the tenant in court for these costs.
Eviction for Illegal Activities
Every oral or written residential lease now includes a requirement that the following activities will not be allowed on the premises:
- Making, selling, possessing, purchasing or allowing illegal drugs (note that effective August 1, 2023, landlords cannot prohibit tenants from possessing edible cannabis in their home – they can only prohibit smoking or vaping cannabis [Minn. Stat. § 504B.171, subd. 1 (2023), amended by 2023 Minn. Sess. Law Serv. Ch. 63 (H.F. No. 100).]);
- Illegally using or possessing firearms;
- Allowing stolen property or property obtained from robbery; or
- Allowing prostitution or related activities. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.171, subd. 1 (2023).]
A tenant violating this law loses the right to the rental property. An Eviction Action filed by a landlord for these reasons will be heard within 5 to 7 days (instead of the usual 7 to 14 days). [Minn. Stat. § 504B.321, subds. 1 and 2 (2023).]
However, starting June 1, 2024, a landlord cannot evict a tenant for committing most crimes if the crimes were committed somewhere other than on the property. [ Minn. Stat. § 504B.171, subd. 1 (2023), amended by 2023 Minn. Sess. Law Serv. Ch. 52 (S.F. 2909).]
Seizure of Property
Unlawful sale, possession, storage, delivery, giving, manufacture, cultivation, or use of controlled substances, unlawful use or possession of a dangerous weapon, unlawful sale of alcohol, prostitution and gambling within a building is a public nuisance. [Minn. Stat. § 617.81, subd. 2 (2023).] A city attorney, county attorney, or the Attorney General may file an abatement action against the landlord, and if the nuisance is not corrected, ask the court to seize the building. [Minn. Stat. § 617.83 (2023).]
Foreclosure/Contract-for-Deed New Owner Evictions
Minnesota law describes a tenant’s rights when the new owner brings an action to evict the tenant after a mortgage foreclosure or contract for deed cancellation:
- If a tenant’s lease began after the date the mortgage was signed, but prior to the end of the mortgage foreclosure redemption period, the new owner must provide the tenant 90 days written notice to vacate, effective no sooner than 90 days after the end of the mortgage foreclosure redemption period, prior to bringing an Eviction Action provided the tenant pays the rent and abides by all lease terms. The new owner may evict the tenant sooner if the tenant fails to pay the rent and abide by all of the lease terms. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.285, subd. 1a(a) (2023).]
- If the tenant is not a parent, child or spouse of the prior landlord, and the prior landlord and the tenant negotiated an arm’s-length lease for fair market value, the new owner generally is required to allow the tenant to remain in the property until the lease ends. If, however, the new owner will live in the property as a primary residence, the new owner is not required to permit the tenant to stay until the end of the lease. If the tenant fails to pay rent and abide by the lease terms, the new owner may evict the tenant. The new owner must provide notice to vacate 90 days prior to the termination of the lease. These requirements only apply to the new owner immediately after the foreclosure, i.e., the purchaser at the sheriff’s sale, and do not apply if the property is resold following the foreclosure. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.285, subd. 1a(b) (2023).]
The owner may evict the tenant after termination of a contract for deed, but if the lease began after the date the contract for deed was signed, but prior to the end of the contract for deed cancellation period (described on page 4), the tenant must receive:
- At least two months’ written notice to vacate no sooner than one month after the end of the contract for deed cancellation period, provided that the tenant pays the rent and abides by all the terms of the lease; or
- At least two months’ written notice to vacate no later than the end of the contract for deed cancellation period. This notice must state that the sender will hold the tenant harmless for breaching the lease by vacating the premises if the contract is reinstated. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.285, subd. 1b (2023).]
A landlord may not evict a tenant or end a tenancy in retaliation for the tenant’s “good faith” attempt to enforce the tenant’s rights, nor can a landlord respond to such an attempt by raising the tenant’s rent, cutting services, or otherwise adversely changing the rental terms. For instance, if a tenant has reported the landlord to a governmental agency for violating health, safety, housing, or building codes, the landlord cannot try to “get even” by evicting the tenant. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.441 (2023).]
The law presumes that the landlord is retaliating if, within 90 days of a tenant’s action, the landlord starts an Eviction Action or gives the tenant a notice to vacate. It will then be up to the landlord to prove the eviction is not retaliatory. However, if the landlord’s notice to vacate comes more than 90 days after a tenant exercises the tenant’s rights, it will be up to the tenant to prove the eviction is retaliatory. These provisions also apply to oral rental agreements.
Unlawful Exclusions and Property Confiscation
It is a misdemeanor for a landlord to physically lock out or bar a tenant from the tenant’s rental unit or otherwise prevent a tenant from living there (for example, by removing locks, doors, or windows from the rental unit) without a court order. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.225 (2023).] A tenant who has been unlawfully forced out may ask a court to get back in. The petition filed with the court must:
- Give a description of the rental unit. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.375, subd. 1(b)(1) (2023).]
- Give the owner’s name. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.375, subd. 1(b)(1) (2023).]
- State the facts that make the lockout or exclusion unlawful. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.375, subd. 1(b)(2) (2023).]
- Request that the tenant be given possession of the unit. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.375, subd. 1(b)(3) (2023).]
If the court agrees with the tenant, it will order the sheriff to help the tenant get back in. If the court decides the landlord knew or should have known that the lockout or other exclusion was unlawful, the court can order the landlord to pay the tenant up to triple damages or $500, whichever is greater, plus reasonable attorney’s fees. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.231(a) (2023).] Also, a landlord cannot cart away or keep a tenant’s belongings for nonpayment of rent or other charges. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.101 (2023); Minn. Stat. § 504B.001 subd. 3 (2023).]
A landlord may not intentionally shut off a tenant’s utilities. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.225 (2023).] If a landlord has unlawfully cut off utility services, a tenant can sue the landlord in court to recover triple damages or $500, whichever is greater, plus reasonable attorney’s fees. However, a tenant may recover only actual damages if:
- In the beginning, the tenant failed to notify the landlord of the interruption of utilities. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.221, subd. (a)(1) (2023).]
- The landlord, once notified, had the services reinstated within a reasonable time or made a good faith effort to do so. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.221, subd. (a)(2) (2023).]
- The cutoff was necessary to repair or correct equipment or to protect the health and safety of the tenants. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.221, subd. (a)(3) (2023).]
Tenants, finding their utility service cut off, should notify the landlord immediately. If service is not restored within a reasonable time, they should notify a housing inspector (if there is one available) and may bring an emergency action in court if the landlord unlawfully cuts off utilities. Effective January 1, 2024, a “repair emergency” will include a non-working refrigerator, promised air-conditioning, serious infestations, and a city notice of intent to condemn the property. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.381 (2023), amended by 2023 Minn. Sess. Law Serv. Ch. 52 (S.F. 2909).]
Loss of Essential Services
When a landlord has contracted to pay for utilities but fails to pay, the utility company must provide notice that services will be cut off, or if the utilities are shut off, the tenant or a group of tenants may pay to have the services continued or reconnected and may deduct that payment from their rent. But the tenant(s) must follow certain steps. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.215, subd. 3(a) and (i) (2023).]
The tenant must notify the landlord either orally or in writing of the tenant’s intention to pay the utility if, after 48 hours, the landlord fails to pay. Under certain circumstances, the notice period can be shorter. For example, if the furnace stops in the middle of winter because of a lack of fuel that the landlord was supposed to provide, less than a 48-hour notice is considered reasonable. If the landlord is notified orally, written notice must be mailed or delivered to the landlord within 24 hours after the oral notice. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.215, subd. 3(a) (2023).]
If the landlord has not paid the natural gas, electricity, or water utility, and the service remains disconnected, the tenant may pay the amount due for the most recent billing period. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.215, subd. 3(b) and (c) (2023).] If the disconnected service is heating oil or propane and the service has not been reconnected, the tenant may order and pay for a one-month supply. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.215, subd. 3(h) (2023).]
In a residential building with less than five units, one of the tenants may take responsibility for the gas or electric bill and establish an account in the tenant’s name. Then, each month the tenant would provide receipts to the landlord and deduct from the next rental payment the amount paid to restore and pay for these utility services. By law, any payments made to a utility provider in this manner must be considered the same as rent paid to the landlord. Payments made for water, heating oil, or propane may also be deducted from rent. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.215, subd. 3(i) (2023).]
Utilities include natural gas, water, electricity, home heating oil and propane. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.215, subd. 3(a) (2023).] This law applies to all utility providers, including municipalities and cooperatives that in most cases are not regulated by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.215, subd. 3(a) (2023).] The utility cannot collect payment from the tenant for the landlord’s past bills. Also, the utility may not refuse service to a tenant due to the landlord’s failure to pay past bills. [Minn. R. 7820.1400 (2023).]
Cold Weather Rule
The Minnesota Legislature developed the Cold Weather Rule to protect a tenant (or homeowner) from having their heat source permanently disconnected in winter (October 15 through April 15) if they are unable to pay their utility bills. [Minn. Stat. § 216B.096 (2023); Minn. Stat. § 216B.097 (2023).] The Cold Weather Rule is implemented by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. The Cold Weather Rule does not prohibit shut-offs. But does provide that a utility may not disconnect and must reconnect a customer whose household income is at or below 50 percent of the state median income if the customer enters into and makes reasonably timely payments under a mutually acceptable payment agreement. Customers whose household income is above 50 percent of the state median income also have the right to a payment agreement to prevent disconnection or get reconnected. [Minn. Stat. § 216B.096, subd. 10 (2023).] The Cold Weather Rule applies to all natural gas and electric utilities; it does not apply to delivered fuels, such as fuel oil, propane, and wood.
The Cold Weather Rule does not prevent a landlord from evicting a tenant or refusing to renew a lease that expires during this “cold weather” season.
The Cold Weather Rule requires a utility company to notify its customers in writing before it disconnects their heat. The notice must be in easy-to-understand language and must contain the amount due, the date of the scheduled disconnection, the reasons for disconnection, and options to avoid disconnection. [Minn. Stat. § 216B.096, subd. 4 (2023); Minn. Stat. § 216B.097, subd. 2 (2023).] A regulated public utility must notify a customer of disconnection at least seven working days in advance. [Minn. Stat. § 216B.096, subd. 7(c)(2) (2023)] An unregulated utility—such as a cooperative or municipal utility—must notify a customer of disconnection at least 15 days in advance. [Minn. Stat. § 216B.097, subd. 3(a)(4) (2023).] A disconnection may not generally happen on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, a holiday or the day before a holiday, while an appeal is pending, or after the close of business on the scheduled day of disconnection.
A utility company must enter into payment agreements all year round, not just during the winter months. [Minn. Stat. § 216B.098, subd. 3 (2023).] Any residential customer, regardless of income or account status, may qualify for a payment agreement.
If you receive a disconnection notice or you know you cannot afford your utility bills, you must work directly with your utility company to set up a payment plan. Your utility company must consider your financial circumstances, as well as any “extenuating” circumstances, when it makes your payment plan. [Minn. Stat. § 216B.098, subd. 3 (2023); Minn. Stat. § 216B.096 (2023).] If you agree to a payment plan, you must keep it. If your circumstances change and you can no longer afford your payment plan, you must contact your utility company and negotiate a new payment plan.
During the winter months, the Cold Weather Rule guarantees a reduced payment plan for consumers who meet certain guidelines. If you receive energy assistance or your household earns less than 50 percent of the state’s median income, a public utility company cannot ask you to pay more than 10 percent of your monthly household income toward current and past utility bills. [Minn. Stat. § 216B.096, subd. 5 (2023).] A cooperative or municipal utility can ask you to pay more than 10 percent of your monthly household income, but it must consider your financial circumstances. [Minn. Stat. § 216B.097, subd. 1(a)(2) (2023).] Household income includes the income of all residents in your household but does not include any amount received for energy assistance.
Your Right to Appeal
If you and your utility company cannot agree on a reasonable payment plan, you have the right to appeal.
If you are a customer of a public utility, you may appeal to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. [Minn. Stat. § 216B.096, subd. 8 (2023).] You must ask your utility company for an appeal form. Once you receive the appeal form, you must send it to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission within 7 working days. [Minn. Stat. § 216B.096, subd. 8(b) (2023).] After it receives your written appeal, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will review it and issue a decision within 20 working days. [Minn. Stat. § 216B.096, subd. 8(c) (2023).] During the appeal process, your utility company cannot disconnect your heat; if you have already been disconnected, your utility company must reconnect your service. [Minn. Stat. § 216B.096, subd. 7(c)(1) (2023).] If your appeal is denied, your utility company must notify you in writing at least 7 days before it disconnects your service. [Minn. Stat. § 216B.096, subd. 8(d) (2023).]
If you are the customer of a cooperative or municipal utility, you must appeal directly to your utility company before you are disconnected. [Minn. Stat. § 216B.097, subd. 3(c) (2023).]
If you have questions about the Cold Weather Rule, contact your local utility or call the Consumer Affairs Office of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission at (651) 296-0406 or (800) 657-3782. If you meet low income guidelines, you may also be eligible for energy assistance funds. Your utility company or the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission can help you get in touch with these programs.
Tenant’s Right to a Tax Credit (CRP)
Minnesota law gives tenants—depending on income and amount of rent paid—a partial refund for the property taxes they pay indirectly through their rent. [Minn. Stat. § 290A.19 (2023).] To be eligible a tenant must rent a property tax-paying unit. If the tenant is renting from the government, a private college, some other person, or other entity not required to pay property taxes or make payments in lieu of taxes, the tenant is not eligible for a refund.
To claim the credit, the tenant must file with the Minnesota Department of Revenue a property tax refund return form (M1PR) and include with it a “certificate of rent paid” (CRP) that the landlord must supply to the person who is a renter on December 31. If the renter moves prior to December 31, the owner or managing agent may give the certificate to the renter at the time of moving or mail the certificate to a forwarding address if one has been provided by the renter. The certificate must be made available to the renter before February 1 of the year following the year in which the rent was paid. [Minn. Stat. § 290A.19 (2023).] If there is a disagreement between the tenant and the landlord over how much rent was paid, or if the landlord fails to provide a certificate of rent paid form, a “Rent Paid Affidavit” can be requested from the Minnesota Department of Revenue. The property tax refund return for the previous year must be filed with the Department of Revenue by August 15. Questions may be directed to the department at (651) 296-3781 or (800) 652-9004. TTY users call 711 for Minnesota State Relay Service.
According to Minnesota law, landlords cannot legally refuse to rent or otherwise deny housing to potential tenants (or have different rental terms) on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, sexual orientation, disability, or familial status. [Minn. Stat. § 363A.09 (2023), amended by 2023 Minn. Sess. Law Serv. Ch. 52 (S.F. 2909)] There are two exceptions to this:
- An owner living in a one-family unit may refuse to rent part of the premises on the basis of sex, gender identity, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, sexual orientation, or disability; or
- A nonprofit organization can discriminate on the basis of sex if the units are in a temporary or permanent residence home. [Minn. Stat. § 363A.21, subd. 1(2) (2023), amended by 2023 Minn. Sess. Law Serv. Ch. 52 (S.F. 2909).]
However, there are some important exceptions to the prohibition on landlords discriminating against tenants with children (a person’s “familial status”). Landlords can refuse to rent to tenants with children when:
- The number of occupants would be over the local, state, or federal restrictions regarding the maximum number of occupants permitting to live in a rental unit; or
- The landlord lives in the building and the building has 4 or fewer units; [Minn. Stat. § 363A.21, subd. 2(a) (2023).] or
- The purpose of the building is to provide housing for elderly persons. [Minn. Stat. § 363A.21, subd. 2(a) (2023)]
Tenants who experience discrimination can file a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights as follows: in person at the 540 Fairview Avenue North, Suite 201, Saint Paul MN 55104; by phone at (651) 539-1100, or toll free, (800) 657-3704; or online at https://mn.gov/mdhr. In Minneapolis, St. Paul, and some other locations, such complaints may also be filed with municipal civil or human rights departments. Tenants may also wish to consult a private attorney about whether or not to sue on the basis of discrimination.
To qualify for the elderly persons exemption the housing must:
- Be provided under a state or federal program that is specifically designed and operated to assist elderly persons; [Minn. Stat. § 363A.21, subd. 2(b)(1) (2023).]
- Be intended for and solely occupied by persons 62 years of age or older; [Minn. Stat. § 363A.21, subd. 2(b)(2) (2023).] or
- Be intended and operated for occupancy by at least one person 55 years of age or older per unit. At least 80 percent of the units must be occupied by one person 55 years of age or older per unit, and there must be the publication of, and adherence to, policies and procedures that demonstrate an intent to provide such housing. [Minn. Stat. § 363A.21, subd. 2(b)(3) (2023).]
Additionally, a landlord is unable to discriminate against a tenant who requires a service dog. Every person who is totally or partially blind, has a physical disability, or is deaf, and who has a service dog or obtains a service dog while renting, shall be entitled to full and equal access to all housing accommodations. Furthermore, the tenant shall not be required to pay extra compensation to the landlord in order to have a service dog reside in the unit; however, the tenant shall be liable for any damage done to the premises by such service dog. [Minn. Stat. § 256C.025 (2023).]
A landlord may require a tenant to provide supporting documentation for each service or support animal for which the tenant requests a reasonable accommodation under any provision of law. A landlord must not require supporting documentation from a tenant if the tenant’s disability or disability-related need for a service or support animal is readily apparent or already known to the landlord. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.113, subd. 2 (2023).] A landlord must not require the tenant to disclose or provide access to medical records or medical providers or provide any other information or documentation of a person’s physical or mental disability. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.113, subd. 2 (2021).]
Additionally, effective January 1, 2024, a landlord that accepts pets won’t be able to require either declawing or devocalization. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.114 (2023).]
Minnesota law requires that a person with disabilities, or a family with a family member with disabilities, must be given priority to accessible units. This law provides that if a person without disabilities, or a family that does not include a person with disabilities, is living in an accessible unit, the owner must offer to rent a non-disability- equipped apartment to that person or family if:
- A person with disabilities or a family with a family member with disabilities who will reside in the apartment has signed a rental agreement for the accessible unit. [Minn. Stat. § 363A.40 (2023)]
- A similar non-disability-equipped unit in the same rental housing complex is available at the same rent. [Minn. Stat. § 363A.40 (2023)]
The law requires that the owner must inform people without disabilities and families that do not include a family member with disabilities of the possibility that they may have to move to a non-disability-equipped rental unit. This information must be provided before an agreement is made to rent an accessible unit. [Minn. Stat. § 363A.40 (2023)]
Landlords must provide their tenants, in writing, with the name and address of:
- The person authorized to manage the premises. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.181, subd. 1(1) (2023).]
- The owner of the premises or the owner’s authorized agent (the person or entity that will be receiving any notices or demands). [Minn. Stat. § 504B.181, subd. 1(2) (2023).]
The addresses given must be a street address, not a post office box number, because it must be an address at which papers can be handed to the recipient (served). The disclosure can be inserted in the lease or can be put in some other written form. It must also be printed or typed and posted by the landlord in some clearly visible place on the premises. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.181, subd. 2 (2023).]
The disclosure is important because the tenant must be able to contact the landlord or agent when repairs are needed or other problems arise. Also, a landlord cannot take any legal action against a tenant to recover rent or to evict the tenant unless the disclosure has been given. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.181, subd. 4 (2023).]
Tenants who move out of a rental unit, or sublet their unit without giving the owner 30 days’ written notice, lose the protection of the disclosure law. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.181, subd. 5 (2023).]
Subleasing means another person “takes over” a tenant’s unit by moving into the unit, paying rent and doing all the things the original tenant agreed to do under the rental agreement. If nothing in the lease prohibits subletting, then the tenant can sublet. This means that the new tenant takes over the old tenant’s duties, including paying the rent. It is best to get these agreements in writing and signed by both parties. If the new tenant does not pay the rent, or if the new tenant damages the unit or leaves before the lease is up, the original tenant will be responsible to the landlord for any damage or unpaid rent. The original tenant can sue the new tenant for these costs. Most leases say the tenant can sublet only if the landlord agrees to it. If the tenant and landlord agree to sublet, it is best to get this agreement in writing.
Personal property a tenant leaves behind after moving out must first be stored by the landlord. The landlord can charge the tenant all moving, storage, and care costs, however, the tenant can get his or her property back before paying the moving, storage, and care costs. If the tenant refuses to pay the moving, storage, and care costs, the landlord can sue the tenant to recover those costs. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.271, subd. 1 (2023).]
If law enforcement has performed an eviction, see page 27 of this booklet to learn about the storage of a tenant’s personal property.
Twenty-eight days after the landlord has either received a notice of abandonment or it has become reasonably apparent that the unit has been abandoned, the landlord may sell or get rid of the property in whatever way the landlord wishes. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.271, subd. 1(b) (2023).] But, the landlord must make a reasonable effort to contact the tenant at least 2 weeks before a sale of the items, to let the tenant know they are being sold or disposed of. The landlord must do this either by personally giving the tenant a written notice of a sale or by sending the notice by first-class and certified mail to the tenant’s last known address or likely new address, if the landlord knows that information. The landlord must also post a notice of the sale in a clearly visible place on the premises at least 2 weeks before the sale. If notice is given by mail, the 2-week period begins the day the notice is deposited in the United States mail. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.271, subd. 1(d) (2023).]
The landlord may use a reasonable amount of the money from a sale to pay for the costs of removing, caring for, and storing the property, back rent, damages caused by the tenant, and other debts the tenant owes the landlord under an agreement. Money earned in excess of the landlord’s costs belongs to the tenant, if the tenant has written and asked for it. If the tenant has asked for the property back before the 28-day waiting period ends, the landlord must give the property back. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.271, subd. 1(b) (2023).]
The landlord must return the tenant’s property within 24 hours after the tenant’s written demand, or 48 hours (not counting weekends and holidays) if the landlord has moved the tenant’s property somewhere other than the building. If the landlord or the landlord’s agent does not allow the tenant to reclaim the property after the tenant has written for it, the tenant may sue for a penalty in an amount not to exceed twice the actual damages or $1,000, whichever is greater, plus any damages the tenant suffered plus reasonable attorney’s fees. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.271, subd. 2 (2023).]
Expanded Definition of Tenant
Caretakers and other individuals who exchange their services (instead of money) for rent are also considered tenants, as are all regular occupants of a dwelling. As such, these individuals are entitled to all rights and remedies provided to tenants by law. [Minn. Stat. § 504B.001, subd. 12 (2023).]
Smoking in Common Areas
Minnesota’s Clean Indoor Air Act prohibits smoking in all common areas within apartment buildings. [Minn. Stat. § 144.413, subd. 2 (2023).]
Manufactured Home Park Residents
Manufactured homeowners who rent lots in manufactured home parks have special rights and responsibilities under Minnesota law. [Minn. Stat. § 327C (2023).] The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office publishes a brochure detailing these rights and responsibilities titled "The Manufactured Home Parks Handbook."