Withholding rent until repairs are made by the landlord is a strategy that some tenants will use to forgo or delay paying rent. Although this is a legal maneuver in the state of Minnesota, the tenant must follow strict guidelines or be subject to eviction. As a landlord, it is good to understand what items the court will be looking for so you can decide whether to proceed with eviction or to meet the tenant’s demands.
If you go to court, here are some items the judge will be looking for:
- Did the tenants have a copy of a written notice they gave you that outlines what repairs they believe are needed?
- Have the tenants given you enough time to complete your repairs?
- Does the tenant actually have all the rent money? If so,the judge may require them to prove the funds availability.
What you should bring to eviction proceedings:
- Pictures of the areas/items that the tenants claim need to be repaired.
- If the work has been completed, receipts from the contractors or suppliers to repair items (and pictures).
- If the repairs are needed because of damage caused by tenants, pictures previously taken of area may help.
- If the repairs are scheduled, but not completed, bring a time line with you to court to show the judge you are working on the problem(s).
The judge can make several rulings:
- S/He can order the landlord to make the repairs immediately and have the tenant hold the money until completed.
- Order the tenant to pay the court or landlord until the facts are proven against the landlord.
- Require the landlord to accept less for the apartment as a remedy to the tenant.
- Pay the outstanding rent to the court for safekeeping until the landlord makes the needed repairs.
- Rule that the tenants request(s) or reasoning for withholding the rent is baseless and order the tenants to pay immediately (including eviction filing fees), or be removed from the premises.
Exception: If the property has been condemned by a government agency or department, the tenant typically can not be required to pay rent and typically the damage deposit must be returned.
Written documentation is your best defense against a tenant that is trying to avoid paying rent by withholding rent until repairs are made. If you are maintaining your properties and feel that your tenant is trying to take advantage of you, I recommend that you process an eviction against them and let the court decide who is right.