Renters rights in Minnesota

There are a number of legal protections for renters in Minnesota. These statutes help ensure there are limits on the ability of landlords to deny rentals, evict tenants without warning, unexpectedly increase rents or otherwise treat tenants unfairly.

There are a few basic terms renters should know in order to fully understand their rights.

Lease Agreement: Lease agreements are a type of legally enforceable contract between landlords and renters. The lease agreement should include things like:

  • Contact information for both parties as well information about all tenants.
  • Term, or the length of lease, which is usually between six months and a year.
  • The amount of rent for the length of the term, whether there are late fees and acceptable payment methods.
  • Security deposit or any other fees you’ll be expected to pay in addition to your rent.
  • Responsibilities regarding maintenance and upkeep as well as restrictions on tenant alterations.
  • Clauses that prohibit illegal or disruptive behavior.
  • Rules regarding pets.

If you sign a lease agreement both you and the landlord are agreeing to the rules stipulated in the contract. That’s why a landlord can’t just decide halfway through your lease that you’re not paying enough.

Rental Agreement: The primary difference between a rental agreement and a lease agreement is the term of the contract. A rental agreement is usually a 30-day contract instead of six or 12 months. In most cases rental agreements automatically renew after the end of the contract period unless the landlord notifies the tenant of changes prior to renewal, or the tenant gives advance notice of nonrenewal (length of notice should be stipulated in rental agreement).

Changes to the rental agreement require tenant acknowledgement and approval. Even if you are month-to-month your landlord still needs to tell you at least 30-days in advance that your rent will be going up and give you the opportunity to agree or make arrangements to move.

Is It Illegal for a Landlord to Refuse to Rent on Discriminatory Grounds?

Yes – landlords cannot refuse to rent to you on the basis of race, color, gender, sexual orientation (in most situations), religion, family status, national origin, disability, marital status or because you are a beneficiary of public assistance. If you believe a landlord is refusing to rent to you or has served you a notice of eviction or nonrenewal for one of the above reasons, you should contact the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.

If you believe your civil rights are being illegally violated by a landlord, business or employer, it may be in your best interest to contact one of our referral counselors to find a Minneapolis–St. Paul civil rights attorney.

Notice to Vacate in Minnesota and COVID-19 Exceptions

If you’re on a month-to-month lease, the notice to vacate terms (your landlord telling you to move out) should be included in your rental agreements. You should be given either 30-, 60- or 90-days depending on the length of your rental agreement terms.

On March 23, 2020, Minnesota governor Tim Waltz signed an order to suspend evictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That order was modified on August 4, 2020 to specify some specific scenarios in which property owners could begin eviction proceedings. However, as long as a tenant wasn’t doing damage to the property or putting other people in danger, landlords were still unable to terminate rental agreements or issue notices of nonrenewal.

A recent bipartisan bill passed in the Minnesota house on June 24, 2020 is intended to begin phasing out the eviction moratorium. The deal, which is just one part of a $52 billion budget package, would allow landlords to give a 15-day notice to renters who violated their lease terms, so long as the violation wasn’t solely related to overdue rent. Renters who are overdue on their rental payments would receive a 75-day eviction notice if the bill is signed into law.

Renters who have applied and qualified for government rental assistance but have yet to receive funds will have eviction protection until June 1, 2022 under the new deal.

What Are the Rules for Raising Rents or Changing Lease Terms in Minnesota?

A landlord can only legally increase your rent when you renew at the end of your lease. As long as you have a written lease agreement you should be protected for the length of your contract. If you are renting month-to-month your landlord would need to give you written notice of a rent increase 30-, 60- or 90-days ahead of time as stipulated in your rental contract.

What Can I Do to Ensure I Get My Security Deposit Returned?

The best thing you can do is thoroughly document the interior of your rental unit the day you sign your lease or rental agreement and before you move in any of your belongings. Take pictures of every room and make sure to note pre-existing damage so you can’t be blamed for the damage when you move out.

Ordinary wear and tear should not qualify as damage, but new stains on flooring, holes in walls, odors from smoke or pets and water damage caused by the renter are all examples of things that might result in the loss of your security deposit.

When possible, insist on doing a final walkthrough with your landlord and request a final inspection report. Also make sure your landlord has your new mailing address so they can send you the security deposit.

It may also be beneficial to take pictures of every room after you’ve moved all your belongings out so you can show before and after images that can act as proof of the condition of the unit.

Landlords only have three weeks to return your security deposit under Minnesota law. If your landlord fails to send your security deposit you can sue them in small claims court (conciliation court), and they could be forced to pay additional penalties.

If you want to speak with a lawyer to get advice about what to do over a security deposit dispute, you may want to first talk to a Minnesota Lawyer Referral counselor. We’d be happy to schedule you a consultation with an appropriate Minneapolis–St. Paul attorney.

Are Landlords Required to Make Repairs?

Unless otherwise stated in the lease agreement, yes, your landlord should be required to make most repairs. If your landlord is refusing to make necessary repairs in a timely manner you should write a formal “request for repairs” letter.

If they still won’t take action, you should consider scheduling a consultation with an attorney to learn about rent escrow actions. Some tenants simply withhold rent until the landlord makes repairs, but taking that route will likely put you in breach of your lease agreement. Failure to pay rent may allow your landlord to begin eviction proceedings.

Are My Belongings Covered by the Landlord’s Insurance?

No – in most cases the landlord’s property insurance only covers the building itself. If a renter’s personal property is lost to water damage, fire or theft, their own renter’s insurance would need to cover those loses.

If you don’t have renter’s insurance, you should speak to the company that currently insures your vehicle (if you have one). Renter’s insurance tends to be one of the most affordable types of insurance, and you can likely save between 10 and 25 percent by bundling renter’s and auto coverage.

Learn More About Renter’s Rights in Minnesota

If you’d like to learn more about your rights as a renter in Minnesota you should visit our Rental Housing page. There are dozens of lawyers in our referral network that represent tenants in disputes with landlords, so don’t hesitate to contact our referral counselors for help. We’d be happy to find a skilled renter’s rights attorney near you and schedule a free 30-minute consultation.