Landlord-tenant law is governed primarily by state law, although federal housing discrimination laws play a role. Minnesota landlord-tenant law has its distinctive features and is relatively favorable to tenants in terms of access to remedies. Tenants may file lawsuits against landlords under the Tenant's Remedies Law. Nevertheless, landlords are able to enforce their legal rights against tenants in state district court.
Minnesota law does not limit the amount of the security deposit. In the case of a periodic tenancy--a tenancy in which no final date of departure is set--the landlord may increase the security deposit at any time by providing the tenant with written notice equal to one rental period plus one day (typically one month and one day). The amount of the security deposit that exceeds any amounts retained by the landlord to cover damage or unpaid rent must be returned to the tenant with a four percent annual interest rate added.
Tenants must pay the rent specified in the lease for the full term of the lease. If the tenant breaks the lease and moves out, he must pay rent for the entire remaining term of the lease. Two exceptions exist. In the case of a periodic tenancy, the tenant is only liable to pay rent for the last period--typically one month. If the landlord finds a new tenant to rent the premises before the end of the old tenant's lease, the old tenant need not pay rent for the period after the new tenant moves in--unless the new tenant is paying lower rent, in which case the old tenant is liable for the difference.
Minnesota landlords are required to keep their premises in a reasonably good state of repair, even if the lease specifies otherwise. The landlord and tenant may agree in writing that the tenant is responsible for certain repairs, but only if the tenant is given something in return, such as a rent reduction. If the landlord fails to make necessary repairs, the tenant has a variety of means to seek redress. He may file a file a complaint with the local housing inspector, pay the rent to a court-administered escrow account and seek a court order forcing the landlord to make repairs, withhold the rent, sue the landlord in state district court, sue for rent abatement in conciliation court or use the landlord's failure to make repairs as a defense against eviction or lawsuit for unpaid rent.
If the lease does not specify an advance notice period for ending the tenancy, both landlords and tenants are required to give written notice at least one full rental period before moving out. In the case of a tenant who pays rent monthly, the rental period is one month. If no notice is given, the tenancy is automatically extended for one rental period. If a definite end date is set forth in the lease, however, the provisions of the lease must be followed. However, tenants who move out between Nov. 15 and April 15 must notify the landlord at least three days in advance, in order to give the landlord a chance to take steps to prevent the pipes from freezing. Failure to provide such notice is a misdemeanor under Minnesota law.
The landlord may evict a periodic tenant at any time, for no reason, as long as proper advance notice is given. The only exceptions are in cases of retaliation against the tenant for exercising his legal rights, or discrimination in violation of federal and state law. If the lease sets a definite departure date, its terms must be followed and the landlord will need reasonable grounds to evict the tenant. In order to evict, a landlord must file an Unlawful Detainer action in state district court. If the landlord wins, state officials must carry out the eviction of a tenant who refuses to leave--in order to prevent breaches of the peace, the landlord may not forcibly evict the tenant himself.