Landlord-Tenant Basics

Interesting and Basic Facts About Landlord-Tenant Law

While many landlords are well-versed and educated on landlord-tenant laws, it never hurts to double check on the basics. Here is a short list encompassing some of the most common and more interesting ones:

  1. If a landlord leases a residential building with 12 or more units, he or she MUST have a written lease for each unit rented. If not, the landlord is guilty of a petty misdemeanor.
  2. Landlords must provide a copy of the lease to the tenant; if not, the tenant will have a defense to certain legal actions taken by the landlord. Keep in mind that landlords have a right to obtain a signed and dated receipt from the tenant acknowledging that he or she received a copy of the lease. This receipt may come in handy for those tenants who attempt to get out of paying rent or other expenses.
  3. Leases may have provisions which entitle the landlord to attorney fees in actions between the landlord and tenant, but such a provision works both ways and entitles the tenant to attorney fees if the tenant wins in the action.
  4. Landlords must return security deposits within three weeks after termination of the tenancy. This does not mean that the tenant must receive it within three weeks, but only that the landlord has to mail it by the three week deadline.
  5. Landlords do not have to return the deposit in three weeks, however, and may withhold from the deposit amounts reasonably necessary to:
    • Make up for past due rent or other expenses due pursuant to the lease; and
    • Fix any damage not present at the start of the tenancy, other than ordinary wear and tear.
  6. If a landlord does withhold rent for one of the reasons mentioned above, the landlord must provide a written statement within three weeks of when the tenant moves out, or he or she may be liable for double the amount of the deposit that is withheld.
  7. Tenants cannot withhold payment of all or any portion of rent for the last month on the premise that the deposit will serve as payment (with some rare exceptions). If a tenant does so, the landlord may be entitled to extra damages.

For more information on the basic rules of landlord tenant law visit the attorney general’s website or check local statutes, chapter 514B, on the Minnesota Legislature’s website.