HousingLink Blog

  • Shannon's Story: What to do when a landlord won't make repairs

    by Josh Dye | Jul 25, 2016

    Shannon moved into her apartment three months ago, and now her refrigerator is broken and she noticed an unsafe level of mold around the baseboards. And there are 9 months left on her lease.

    She asked the landlord in writing to repair the refrigerator and take care of the mold problem. By law the landlord has 14 days after receiving the letter to make the repairs, but Shannon has heard nothing and seen no action.

    How frustrating!

    Shannon didn't know what to do, so she asked her friends over coffee how they would handle it.

    Beth, after taking a sip of her caramel macchiato said, "I would stop paying my rent until the $&%&$* landlord fixes the place!"

    Kathleen, enjoying espresso, chimed in, "I would move out. That will teach him a lesson!" #MovingOUT #BadLandlord

    Megan, after finishing her Irish coffee, offered, "I would take a bunch of pictures and post them on Instagram." #Mold #HateMyApartment

    Realizing that sometimes friends have the worst advice when it comes to a legal matter like renting an apartment, Shannon decided to see what MN Landlord Tenant Law says.

    She learned that the right decision was to file a Rent Escrow Action.

    "Who knew?!" Shannon exclaimed. "I am so glad I protected myself from making a huge mistake by taking the time to learn my rights. Had I followed Beth or Kathleen's advice, the landlord could have evicted me. What a nightmare!"

    Rent Escrow Action in short:

    1. Go to the courthouse where you live and file a rent escrow action. Deposit your full rent payment with the court.
    2. A court date is set 10 - 14 days after the money is deposited.
    3. Notify the landlord of the court date. If the cost of the repair is less than $15,000, the court will let the landlord know by mail (at the address the renter gave the court) the date. If the repair is more than $15,000, the renter has to physically hand the papers to the landlord at least 5 days but not more than 10 days before the court date.

    Ramsey County has a helpful rent escrow action guide here.

    Hennepin County tells you how to file a rent escrow action at the bottom of this page.

  • Same Tenant. Bed Bugs 3 Times! What Would You Do?

    by Josh Dye | Feb 05, 2016

    A landlord recently contacted HousingLink with this dilemma:

    "I have tenants that still have 6 months left on their lease. Since they moved in, bed bugs have infested the unit 3 times! This unit never had bed bugs before.

    Each time we used a professional pest control company to use heat treatment. The company also did a follow up inspection a month after to confirm it worked.

    I would like to avoid the expense and complication of eviction (and another bed bug problem), but still have the tenants move out before the lease is up. Here is what I am considering:

    A "cash for keys" arrangement where the tenancy is mutually terminated, and I give them their security deposit back plus $600 (their rent amount) to encourage them to find another place to live."

    Your turn! What would you do if you were this landlord? Here were some of your answers:

    "Add an addendum to the lease that limits the amount you pay for pest control."
    ~ J

    "It is probably not three separate problems, but failure to eradicate the bugs entirely. They are very difficult to get rid of, even with professional help. Sometimes using a month-to-month lease is the best way to go."
    ~ Raymond

    "I recently had bed bugs in one of my rentals so this hit home to me!  Here's how I handled it:

     In my lease it states that if a tenant brings bed bugs into the residence that they are responsible for removing them. I also have a clause in my lease that used furniture cannot be brought into the unit (I do make exceptions for furniture from relatives).

    So when my tenant reported potential bed bugs I found a place that would bring out a dog to verify the existence of bed bugs for $75.  My tenant paid for this. 
    The treatment was a little over $1,000 and my tenant doesn't have a lot of extra money.  My tenant suggested that he wait a month or two so he could save up and pay for the treatment.  
    Since this could spread I suggested the following:  I pay the $1,000 and my tenant pays me and= additional $333/month for the next 3 months and we get this taken care of immediately. My tenant was very happy with this arrangement.  We're in month 2 now and I have gotten 2/3 of my money back.  So far bed bug free!"

    "Under the ‘cash for keys' proposal, there is no guarantee the tenants will move when mutually agreed upon, if they move at all. Also, ‘promises’ to move might go on for some time, and the tenants could still claim they’re entitled to their security deposit.
    However, if you think the tenants are trustworthy, draw up the agreement, covering all your bases.  Include a clause that states if they haven’t moved by the agreed upon date, they will not get their security deposit back, and no $600 incentive either."
    ~ Ben
  • When Should a Renter Pay an Application Fee?

    by Rick Galster | Sep 18, 2015

    Have you felt the pain of getting denied an apartment and losing out on application fees? This is common for renters with difficult criminal, credit, or rental histories. There are only 2 situations when you should submit an application and pay the fee:

    1. When you are 100% sure that you meet the landlord's rental criteria (income, credit, criminal, and rental history).
    2. When you have talked with the landlord about how you don't meet their criteria, but he or she is willing to make an exception for your specific situation.

    Only submit an application or pay the fee if you meet the landlord's rental criteria or they are willing to make an exception for your background. This will save you a lot of money when searching for a place to rent.

    In Minnesota, if a landlord charges an application fee they must provide their rental criteria in writing. Ask to see the criteria if they don't provide it. Make sure to know the following things about your background before you start searching for an apartment:

    • Your gross monthly income (before taxes are taken out). This is the number landlords use to determine if you meet their income requirements.
    • Your credit score. This is available through the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Trans Union, or Equifax for a fee. Credit Karma is a free service you can try.
    • Your criminal background. Know specifically what is on your record (felony, misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, etc.)
    • Your rental history. Rental history includes public records like evictions and what previous landlords say you were like as a renter (late rent, noise complaints, property damage, etc.)

    If your background meets the landlord's rental criteria, go ahead and apply! If not, tell the landlord which parts of the criteria you do not meet. Then explain how you are working to make things better, and why what happened in the past will not occur again. Ask the landlord if they will make an exception to their criteria and allow you to rent the apartment.

    Remain patient! If you have a challenging background, it will take longer to find a landlord who will work with you. But make sure that you don't waste money on application fees in the process! Only apply if you meet the criteria OR the landlord is willing to work with your specific situation.

  • Changes to MN Domestic Violence Statute Impacts Landlords

    by Rick Galster | Sep 18, 2015

    Thanks to the Minnesota Multi Housing Association for this legislative update!

    The law originally passed in 2007 allowing victims of domestic abuse to terminate their leases in certain circumstances was significantly amended. The following changes became effective August 1st, 2014:

    Termination - Previous Law
    The tenancy terminates on the date specified in the written notice ONLY for the resident exercising rights under the statute. Others living in the unit continue with the tenancy according to the terms of the lease.

    Termination - New Law
    When any resident exercises termination rights under the statute, the entire tenancy terminates for ALL RESIDENTS in the rental unit. For sole residents, the tenancy terminates on the date specified in the required written notice. For multiple residents, the tenancy terminates at the end of the month OR the end of the rent interval in which one resident terminates the lease. A resident whose lease was terminated due to a co-resident terminating the lease under the law, may reapply to enter into a new lease.

    Payment - Previous Law
    The resident must pay an additional amount equal to one month's rent in order to receive the protections provided under the statute.

    Payment - New Law
    All residents forfeit all claims for the return of the security deposit under the new law. Even if there are multiple residents on the lease, the entire security deposit is forfeited. Residents remain responsible for the full month's rent in which the tenancy terminates, and for other amounts owed to management at the time the lease is terminated under the law, including delinquent and unpaid rents.

    Types of Victims Covered - Previous Law
    Only victims of domestic abuse are covered.

    Types of Victims Covered - New Law
    In addition to victims of domestic abuse, the new law covers victims of criminal sexual conduct and stalking.

    Documentation - Previous Law
    Only orders for protection or no contact orders are document permitted for use.

    Documentation - New Law
    In addition to orders for protection and no contact orders, writing produced and signed by court officials, law enforcement officials, and the following qualified third parties as defined by statute:

    • Licensed health care professionals
    • Domestic abuse advocates
    • Sexual assault counselors

    The statement by a qualified third party must attest to certain statements, and requires them to disclose their name, business address, and business telephone number.

    Written Notice - Previous Law
    Residents seeking statutory protection must provide written notice to management stating:

    • The tenant is imminently fearful of domestic abuse from a person named in a no contact order or order for protection
    • In order to avoid imminent domestic abuse, the tenant needs to terminate the tenancy.
    • The specific date the tenancy will terminate

    Written Notice - New Law
    In addition to the items required in the previous law above, the written notice must now include written instructions for the disposition of any remaining personal property in the rental unit, in accordance with the statute addressing resident's abandoned personal property. Management may request the name of the perpetrator if the resident is informed that the name is sought to protect other residents in the building. The resident may decline to provide the name of the perpetrator, and disclosure of the name cannot be a precondition of terminating the lease.

    The new law also provides a means for management to expedite an eviction action by dividing the lease and removing a resident engaging in domestic abuse, criminal sexual conduct, or stalking against another resident in the rental unit. Finally, under the new law, management is prohibited from evicting a resident solely on the basis of being a victim of domestic abuse, criminal sexual conduct, or stalking.

  • Destructive Renter...What YOU Would Do

    by User Not Found | Jan 09, 2014

    In the December edition of our Landlord Link e-newsletter (email jdye@housinglink.org to subscribe), HousingLink shared a story about a destructive renter and asked how our readers would handle the situation. Here were their answers (NOTE: The opinions expressed and shared are not endorsed by HousingLink.)

    John (Attorney): "I would have filed an order for protection action with the court to have this tenant immediately removed from the property, and at the same time I would have served the eviction action. Assuming the judge grants the order for protection (based on the facts of this situation), the tenant would get arrested on the spot if he came within so many blocks of the property. With the tenant out of the property the eviction would have went much better, and the landlord wold not have been blackmailed by the tenant to pay him money."

    Linda (Landlord): "Before renting to anyone, know the legal rights of both the landlord and renter. I have a duplex that I rent and knowing the laws is very helpful. Given the property damage and hotel expenses, the owners in this case would have spent less to evict him. I always take before and after pictures of my properties and date them. People often think they have to have an attorney for everything, but many things are simple enough. Take time to educate yourself on the in's and outs of property management."

    Diana (Code Enforcement Officer): "It is unfortunate when the law used to protect us is used by someone for harm and in violation of the lease they signed. It sounds like the owners of the home followed the law in an effort to have the roommate removed from the home. Taking the advice of the Police Department and leaving the home for the remainder of the roommates' tenancy was a wise choice. Personal safety and security is a top priority. A thorough background check and contacting rental references is a must when renting property. While there is a never a guarantee that you will have a good experience, previous evictions are a red flag."

    Leo (Landlord): "Sue the renter for the property damages. Start with small claims court and if that is not enough, go higher."

    Fran (Landlord): "I would try to put him in jail for destroying personal property."

    Sara (Landlord): "The state laws need to be changed to help people who have to live with this kind of behavior. Landlords are thought to be the bad guys. The only way to do anything about these situations is to work with state legislature. We need to make this kind of behavior illegal and punishable by law. What I see in these photographs is a crime. It is called constructive vandalism. If we had penalties attached to it people would not be inclined to do it. The man in the basement knew what he was doing because he has done this to others. With the way the laws are now he will continue to do it. It is his lifestyle and what he does for a living. It is actually how he makes his money. We can all work on getting this kind of thing a crime by working with state legislation. The cops will do nothing because there are not enough laws surrounding the subject. I know because I deal with this all of the time."

    Robert (Landlord): "Realizing the written/oral agreement needed to end, the following steps should been taken. 1. Write a termination letter to be given or placed in plan view for the tenant. This should include Your Name,address and signature are required as is the Tenant(s) name and property. Reason for termination in this case I would indicate month-to-month and any additional charges. Only because it was not a basement that could be legally rented for living making your lease unenforceable. 2. Hand deliver the termination letter to the unwanted Tenant(s) or post it on the door to his/her room or another area of plan view. Although move in occurred in July ending November 15th, I would have presented letter sometime in August between 15th and new month beginning. 3. Make copies of letters to get notarized by court administrator and have delivered by a third party.Such as a process server of sheriff. 4. Appear in court with supporting documentation ready for hearing. 5. After winning take the judgment to the sheriff and have the renter evicted."

    Rick (Landlord): "Under the lease for criminal activity (if you have one) press charges for destruction of private property. At housing court ask the Judge for an imminent eviction (no children) for breaking the lease as a result of criminal activity on the property. With a good judge he or she will give a 24 hour eviction as long as there are no children living in the unit. With no kids in the unit a seven day grace period is not required. I also recommend landlords conduct a thorough background check and refuse to rent to people without rental history. I once had a rental unit damaged when I went through an eviction process. My losses were $11,560."

    Robert: I saw this story when it originally aired on the news. I recognized this tenant's modus operandi and realized this was the same person who was renting a room from my mom when she passed away last May. I contacted the landlord in the story and confirmed that this was the same individual. After my mom died, he never paid any rent and refused to leave the property. We had to have the estate sale with him living there because he would not leave. At one point I offered him $600 to leave. He countered with $900. I told him to forget it, and had him served with an eviction. He would call me very politely begging to stay longer, and when I told him no, he would start swearing and screaming at me and tell me what a horrible person I was. He did not leave until the sheriff posted notice that they would be there within 24 hours to forcibly remove him. Later he left me a message asking if I could give him a good reference!

    Do you need to know the steps to evict a tenant? See the MN Eviction process here.

  • The Shadow Market Rent Ceiling

    by User Not Found | Jul 24, 2013

    For a number of quarters in Twin Cities Rental Revue we have tracked the impact of the shadow market on apartment rents. We have observed that in instances where apartment rents meet or exceed shadow market rents, apartment rents often appear to drop below those of the shadow market (hence, the "Shadow Market Ceiling"). This is merely an observation we have noticed a number of times. Subscribers can see examples of this in the 2013 Q2 Twin Cities Rental Revue in the following sub-regions:

    • Southwest Minneapolis (1, 2, & 3 BRs)
    • Downtown St Paul (1 & 2 BRs)
    • Apple Valley/Rosemount (3 BRs)
    • Bloomington (2 BRs)
    • Edina (2 BRs)
    • St Louis Park (1 BR)
    • Wayzata/Mound (1, 2, & 3 BRs)
    • Woodbury (1 & 2 BRs)

    On the flip side we have also seen a trend that when apartments are renting for significantly below the shadow market, there are often substantial increases in apartment rents. However, we have yet to see apartments rent above the shadow market in any sub-region (the ceiling!) for a length of time. Among other factors, evaluating the shadow market ceiling can inform where you set rents at your properties.

  • Apartments Now the Majority of Openings in the Twin Cities

    by User Not Found | Jul 24, 2013

    The passing of the 2nd quarter marks significant developments in the Twin Cities rental market . Most notably, apartments now represent the majority of openings. For perspective, consider that in the 2nd quarter of 2012 there were 6,800 apartment openings listed. In Q2 2013 there were 12,000. 

    Apartment & Shadow Market Openings: 2012 Q2 - 2103 Q2

    Apartment openings

    Despite this surge in openings, apartment rents still went up across the region. One-bedrooms were up 3%, two bedrooms 8%, and three bedrooms 4%. However, some sub-regions that have seen a lot of new construction, and had rents above the shadow market, did see a drop. One example is apartments in Uptown . We will continue to track rental market trends in our quarterly report, Twin Cities Rental Revue .

  • The Shrinking Shadow Market

    by User Not Found | Apr 18, 2013

    A trend we have our eyes on is the shrinking shadow market. Since we started tracking Twin Cities rental market data in 2011, the shadow market consistently made up 60% or more of twin cities rental listings. However, the last two quarters it has made up 55% and 52%. Possible explanations to this trend are the improving real estate market, with more people opting to sell their homes than rent them out, or the fact that shadow market rentals turn over less frequently than apartments.

    A recent national survey of renters (single family and multi-family) by Premier Property Management out of Memphis, TN showed some interesting findings. For example:

    - 52% of all rental units in the U.S. are single-family homes, housing 27% of renters.
    - Most, 3.6 million, were originally built for owner occupancy, but became rental when their owners lost them to foreclosure.
    - Single family home tenants are 25% more likely than apartment tenants to stay in their current home five years or longer.

    See the entire survey results here.

  • Twin Cities Rents Remain Strong Overall

    by User Not Found | Jan 24, 2013
    The fourth quarter of 2012 showed the continuation of a strong rent growth in the Twin Cities apartment and shadow markets. One bedroom units in the apartment market were up 10% from the previous year, with a median rent of $790. Two bedrooms rose 8% to $960, and three bedrooms climbed 5% to $1,250. In the shadow market one bedroom units rose 3% to $835, two bedrooms grew 5% to $1,100, and three bedrooms nudged 1% higher to $1,300.

    In the past two quarters in this report, we have started to see an interesting development with three bedroom apartments in the suburbs. In a number of cases rents are declining year-over-year (many times by 10% or more!) when the median rent for a three bedroom apartment a year ago was higher than a three bedroom shadow market rental in the same region. Examples of this trend in this quarters report:

    Inver Grove Heights/Mendota/Lilydale
    New Hope

    Last quarter it happened in:

    Eden Prairie
    Inver Grove Heights/Mendota/Lilydale

    The result of the declining apartment rents are that in most cases the rents are “corrected” to the place where three bedroom apartments are less than three bedroom shadow market units.

    This trend may also present an opportunity for apartment owners and managers of three bedrooms throughout the Twin Cities suburbs. There were a number of regions where three bedroom apartments a year ago were renting significantly lower than three bedroom shadow market rentals. This allowed for substantial rent increases. Examples of this trend in this quarter's Twin Cities Rental Revue:

    Bloomington (up 17.6%)
    Chaska (up 15%)
    Coon Rapids (up 6.7%)
    Fridley/Columbia Heights (up 9.2%)
    Hopkins (up 17.4/%)
    Minnetonka (up 16.3%)
    Roseville (up 19%),

    This demonstrates the importance of tracking shadow market rents to help determine whether or not you can expect or plan for rent decreases or increases in specific regions. For those not currently subscribing to Twin Cities Rental Revue, go here for more information so you aren't missing out on this vital rental market data, or email jdye@housinglink.org.
  • Shadow Market Pressure Impacts Apartment Rents in Twin Cities Suburbs

    by User Not Found | Oct 16, 2012
    Year-over-year rent growth in the apartment and shadow markets was unimpressive when looking at the Twin Cities as a whole.

    In the apartment market:

    One bedrooms remained flat ($711)
    Two bedrooms were up 1% ($900)
    Three bedrooms jumped 5% ($1,260)

    In the shadow market:

    One bedrooms rose 6% ($850)
    Two bedrooms rose 2% ($1,125)
    Three bedrooms rose 2% ($1,325)

    Things get much more compelling when you look at individual areas. Consider southwest Minneapolis apartment rents:

    Two bedrooms were up 36% over the previous year! ($1,350 compared to $995) Three bedrooms were up 11% ($1,500 compared to $1,350)

    To put that in perspective, over the course of a year, the median rent for a two bedroom apartment in Southwest Minneapolis went as high as the median rent for a three bedroom just one year earlier. Wow.

    While apartments remained strong throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul, rents declined in many suburbs. This was likely due to shadow market pressure. Consider Plymouth: Two bedroom apartments in 2011 Q3 were $1,117, but dropped  11% to $995 by Q3 2012. Three bedroom apartments in Plymouth had a similar story. In 2011 Q3 they were $1,600. In 2012 Q4? A 15% drop to $1,358. How did that happen in this rental boom? It is likely the impact of the Shadow Market.

    For the past year, Shadow market (largely single family homes and townhomes) three bedroom rentals in Plymouth hovered around $1,600. With a greater number of shadow market openings to choose from among both two and three bedrooms in Plymouth, apartment rents couldn't keep pace with the single family home, townhome, and condo rentals (and inventory) in Plymouth.

    Similar stories played out in other suburbs (particularly with three bedroom rentals) like Eagan, Eden Prairie, Edina, Hopkins, Inver Grove Heights, Lakeville, Maplewood, Minnetonka, St Louis Park (two bedroom rents impacted in this case), Wayzata, Mound, and Woodbury. In each of these areas the shadow market appeared to put a ceiling on apartment rents, causing year-over-year declines.

    This shows the importance of gaining insight into shadow market rentals in the areas where you have properties. Thanks for subscribing to the MADACS award winning Twin Cities Rental Revue!