Minnesota landlords have rights against renters (a.k.a. tenants) who violate their lease, don’t pay rent, damage the property, or otherwise break Minnesota landlord-tenant law.

This article covers a number of Minnesota landlord rights issues:

A free service is available for Minnesota tenants with questions about their right against landlords. But Minnesota landlords often have questions about their rights. This article discusses Minnesota landlord’s rights when dealing with problem renters.

Minnesota Month-to-Month Lease a.k.a. Tenancy at Will

Landlords may allow a tenant (i.e. a renter) to stay in their home after the lease (rental agreement) expires. When this occurs, the landlord and tenant have a month-to-month lease, which is called “Tenancy at Will.” Tenancy at Will is covered under Minnesota Statute section 504B.135:

Minnesota Statute section 504B.135 – Terminating Tenancy at Will

(a) A tenancy at will may be terminated by either party by giving notice in writing. The time of the notice must be at least as long as the interval between the time rent is due or three months, whichever is less.

(b) If a tenant neglects or refuses to pay rent due on a tenancy at will, the landlord may terminate the tenancy by giving the tenant 14 days notice to quit in writing.

As you can see, the statute requires landlords and tenants to give 30 days notice, but if a tenant isn’t paying rent, the landlord may terminate the tenancy by giving only 14 days notice.

Automatic Renewal of Leases is Prohibited in Minnesota

Unfurnished Apartment for Rent by turkeychik

Creative Commons Generic License Attribution Unfurnished Apartment for Rent by turkeychik

Some residential landlords have drafted lease agreements that say the lease will automatically renew for one year if the tenants fail to give them notice that they are ending the lease. Minnesota Statute section 504B.145 expressly prohibits an automatic lease renewal of over two months unless certain statutory procedures are followed:

Minnesota Statute section 504B.145 – Restriction on Automatic Renewals of Leases

Notwithstanding the provisions of any residential lease, in order to enforce any automatic renewal clause of a lease of an original term of two months or more which states, in effect, that the term shall be deemed renewed for a specified additional period of time of two months or more unless the tenant gives notice to the landlord of an intention to quit the premises at the expiration of the term due to expire, the landlord must give notice to the tenant as provided in this section. The notice must be in writing and direct the tenant’s attention to the automatic renewal provision of the lease. The notice must be served personally or mailed by certified mail at least 15 days, but not more than 30 days prior to the time that the tenant is required to furnish notice of an intention to quit.

Minnesota Renters Cannot Use a Security Deposit for Their Last Month’s Rent

Tenants may tell the landlord to use their security deposit to cover their last month’s rent. This obviously undermines the purpose for a security deposit, which is to provide the landlord with some “security” or money in case the tenant leaves the property and the property is damaged. Thus, Minnesota law protects landlords and provides a penalty for tenants who don’t pay their last month’s rent.

Minnesota Statute section 504B.178, Subdivision 8 – Withholding Rent

No tenant may withhold payment of all or any portion of rent for the last payment period of a residential rental agreement, except an oral or written month to month residential rental agreement concerning which neither the tenant nor landlord has served a notice to quit, or for the last month of a contract for deed cancellation period under section 559.21 or a mortgage foreclosure redemption period under chapter 580, 581, or 582, on the grounds that the deposit should serve as payment for the rent. Withholding all or any portion of rent for the last payment period of the residential rental agreement creates a rebuttable presumption that the tenant withheld the last payment on the grounds that the deposit should serve as payment for the rent. Any tenant who remains in violation of this subdivision after written demand and notice of this subdivision shall be liable to the landlord for the following:

(1) a penalty in an amount equal to the portion of the deposit which the landlord is entitled to withhold under subdivision 3 other than to remedy the tenant’s default in the payment of rent; and

(2) interest on the whole deposit as provided in subdivision 2, in addition to the amount of rent withheld by the tenant in violation of this subdivision.

As you can see, this Minnesota statute provides a serious penalty for tenants who fail to pay their last month’s rent. The law says that if a tenant fails to pay the last month’s rent, the law assumes that the tenant intended to have the security deposit used for the last month’s rent. After the landlord sends a written demand for payment, the tenant who fails to pay will be liable for an amount equal to the security deposit, plus interest on the deposit, plus the amount of unpaid rent.

Landlords have 21 Days to Return a Renter’s Security Deposit

Landlords are required by law to either

  1. return a renter’s security deposit or
  2. provide to the renter, in writing, a statement showing the specific reason for the withholding some or all of the deposit.

The landlord must mail this statement first-class within three weeks after the tenancy ends, as long as the renter provides a forwarding address. See Minnesota Statutes section 504B.178 subdivision 3:

Every landlord shall: within 3 weeks after termination of the tenancy . . . and after receipt of the tenant’s mailing address or delivery instructions, return the deposit to the tenant, with interest thereon as provided in subdivision 2, or furnish to the tenant a written statement showing the specific reason for the withholding of the deposit or any portion thereof.

So if a renter has not received a security deposit or written explanation within 21 days after the tenancy ended, plus a few days for mailing, then the renter should consider taking legal action to get

  1. the security deposit,
  2. a penalty equal to the security deposit, and potentially
  3. a $200 bad faith penalty, all of which a renter is entitled under Minnesota law.

See Minnesota Statutes section 504B.178 subdivision 4.

A landlord must return the entire security deposit except for an amount reasonably necessary to cover amounts owed under the lease or for damage to the property, excluding ordinary wear and tear. See Minnesota Statutes section 504B.178 subdivision 3(b).

Common Landlord Questions & Attorney Answers

Question: Can I recover attorney’s fees from my tenant?

Answer: As a general rule, you may only recover attorney’s fees in a lawsuit if your lease specifically allows for it (this is one reason it is important to have an attorney draft your lease).

Question: How do I calculate interest?

Answer: Interest on late rent is calculated based on the interest rate in the lease (this is one reason it is important to have an attorney draft your lease). Interest on the security deposit held by the landlord is one percent (1%). Here are the details from Minnesota Statutes section 504B.178 subdivision 2:

Any deposit of money shall not be considered received in a fiduciary capacity within the meaning of section 82.55, subdivision 26, but shall be held by the landlord for the tenant who is party to the agreement and shall bear simple noncompounded interest at the rate of three percent per annum until August 1, 2003, and one percent per annum thereafter, computed from the first day of the next month following the full payment of the deposit to the last day of the month in which the landlord, in good faith, complies with the requirements of subdivision 3 or to the date upon which judgment is entered in any civil action involving the landlord’s liability for the deposit, whichever date is earlier. Any interest amount less than $1 shall be excluded from the provisions of this section.

Question: Does the tenant owe the statute’s penalties for not paying the last month’s rent immediately or only after going to court?

Answer: On this point, the statute is not clear. As a practical matter, it normally does not matter because, after receiving the landlord’s notice, the tenant either (1) pays the last month’s rent so the landlord does not sue or (2) refuses to pay the last month’s rent so the landlord sues for the last month’s rent plus penalties. I would generally recommend that landlords notify the tenants of the penaltiies, but only seek to recover those penalties if they go to court. The reason is this: if a tenant pays the last month’s rent after the landlord gives notice of the statute, the tenant should not be liable for penalties.

Minnesota Landlord Rights Attorney

Our attorneys are experienced in representing landlords and tenants in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and the Twin Cities suburbs. They have drafted Minnesota lease agreements, negotiated landlord-tenant disputes, and represented clients in lawsuits involving residential and commercial leases. Our real estate attorneys are available to meet with people facing lease disputes, analyze their lease, and explain their legal rights and options. This can usually be completed in a one hour meeting, which can be done by phone or in our office. Our usual hourly rates apply to this legal work.

Leave a Public Comment

  • nanette
    March 23, 2015, 6:29 pm

    3 college girls in Bemidji, 1year lease,one roommate leaves lease gets out of lease by having her mother send an email. Don’t know what was in that e mail but now we are stuck and can’t afford to finish lease we only have April and may to pay the lease is up. The roommate was 21yrs old can her mom really just send an email to break the lease, without any other notice to the staying roommates and in fact no notice to all beforehand that we are aware of?

  • John
    March 19, 2015, 12:57 pm

    What can I do if I’m on a month to month and gave my notice im moving out but my roommate isn’t sure what they are doing? Basically they have my 30 day notice and I have a form for my roommate to sign saying he’s taking the lease over and he’s refusing to sign the paper. My landlord is telling me that if he don’t sign it I will still be responsible for rent if he don’t sign it. How is this possible if I’m telling them I want out and we are just on a month to month agreement with them.

  • Nancy
    March 17, 2015, 3:33 pm

    What does a landlord do when tenants continue to smoke in a building that was made nonsmoking several years ago? Tenant has been notified, signs posted. Other tenants are complaining, have witnessed person smoking, but landlord hasn’t personally witnessed the smoking, although obviously can smell it.

  • laurel
    February 21, 2015, 6:17 pm

    Can a landlord deduct “rent” from a damage deposit, if the tenant didn’t vacate the property on the date stated, but rather left his things in the unit for an additional ten days without paying? This prevented us from getting into the property to clean and make repairs.

  • Michelle
    February 14, 2015, 1:12 am

    We did a rent to own the first time we met her is when we signed the agreement. She is the only one on the lease. Now she emailed us stating her husband moved in with her and that was all she needed to due was tell us that. She did not ask nor she said she does not want him on the lease in case things do not work out because they had been separated. Do we not have rights in this? Does she not have to ask and does he not have to be on the lease? She already has pulled other things that we requested her to resolve and has not but she knows we are in a different state and she says she is a paralegal and basically is telling us we have no rights and that she is within her rights.

  • Eric
    December 24, 2014, 12:49 am

    I had a tenant leave without paying for a month’s rent and the utilities. There was not a written lease agreement between us. What are my rights in order to recoup the lost rent?

  • Pam
    September 13, 2014, 11:33 pm

    I had a tenant that rented for 6 months. When they left, portions of the carpeting were urine soaked and stained, dried of course. They left their couch and love seat, the drive way has MANY oil drips as well as a small hole in the wall.
    My question is-
    Do I need to supply them with receipts of having these replaced/repaired or just the estimates I have received.

    I have told them that we didn’t plan on charging them more than their deposit just because we know they could never pay.
    She is insistent on only paying for the stained areas of the carpeting and does not believe the drive way should even be an issue as well as leaving the couches.

    Any advice would be great!!

  • Jon
    August 30, 2014, 2:00 am

    Is interest owed on both the security deposit as well as prepaid last month’s rent?

  • James Lin
    July 17, 2014, 6:10 pm

    Hi, we had rent a apartment for couple year in Minnesota, and now we need to move out. But now the apartment landlord notice us that we need to pay for the carpet replacement. So I here wondering after how many years residence the apartment landlord can charge tenant for this replacement payment fee in Minnesota? and I will also need the law reference, thank you so much.

  • Bobbie
    July 2, 2014, 5:45 pm

    I am new to renting out my home in Dakota County. I have had a couple people tell me that by law, married couples only have to pay one application fee. I want to charge $30 per adult for background, credit, rental history, etc. Is this true for married couples? Thank you

  • Jeanie
    April 22, 2014, 1:23 am

    I own and live in one half of a duplex. My current tenants have rented from me for 2 years and are currently interested in signing another one-year lease. I am concerned about excessive noise and being disturbed quite regularly from their kids and friend visitors playing basketball and bouncing balls off walls, windows, etc. and at late times of the night. My second question is are their Mn guidelines for family members staying with tenants? Is there a limit to days staying without paying rent? Bringing Pets?