Tenant rights but non-communicative with landlord

10 Replies

It’s winter in MN and my renter contacted me about a non-working stove with smell of gas. I’d tried calling and messaging/ email through cozy next day and several days later to get more details on the problem and stove itself with zero communication back from the tenant. This began 2 weeks ago with no further communication by them. After 5 days of no responses I assumed the issue had been resolved. Today I get a call from the city that there is a concern by the tenant regarding neglect.

This is my first rental and am learning the hard way but I feel I’m starting on defense with them having contacted the city before allowing myself to fix the issue. The tenant has been an issue each month since purchasing in July 2019. There are also other violations of the lease at hand.

Suggestions? They are month to month renters and I am debating non renewing the lease so I can just get in the property to fix what may be wrong. The majority of issues stem from them not cleaning and is causing more expensive fixes of plumbing/ hvac. Would this impinge on their renters rights? I’m not trying to retaliate by any means but I’m not sure how a problem can be fixed if the complaining party doesn’t give more information or agree to a time I can assess the issue and thus fix it.

Thank you all!

First - the smell of gas is an exigent circumstance requiring immediate remediation, thus not infringing upon the renters rights. By them not responding, it implies it was not an emergency or even a real issue. If it has been2 weeks and the place has not blown up, then there was not a gas leak.

Add, contact the City, and this throws up a red flag that the whole thing is a set-up to withhold rent or force you to renew the month-to-month

If you do not renew their month-to-month, they will scream retaliation for reporting them to the city. This whole thing does not pass the smell test.

Make contact with them and demand they identify the issue and allow you to remediate. Document every time you try or succeed in making contact

You have documentation showing that you tried repeatedly to contact them.  Return the call to the city and tell them that you tried repeatedly to contact them through different methods with no luck.  As Jeff said, document everything.  Come Jan, give them notice that you will not be renewing their lease and they need to move.

@Alisa SantaAna First things first, get them a stove that works properly if there is really an issue and get the gas company/local fire department out there to determine if there is really a gas leak. Once you do this I don't think the tenant really has any leg to stand on regarding retaliation, etc. 

From there contact a local attorney so you can make sure you are following the local laws the proper way for giving a month to month tenant the proper notice. 

@Alisa SantaAna I agree with some of the other posters. Document everything but give them notice that you will not be renewing their lease. Go in there, make sure it's rent ready and get a good tenant. Screen intensely and call all past landlords.

A tenant reports smelling gas.  That's an emergency and it allows you immediate access to the property.  "Minnesota law states that a landlord may enter a leased premises only for a business purpose and only after making a good-faith effort to give reasonable notice - and in cases of emergency. This statute does not prohibit a landlord from entering a unit when tenants are away, but the landlord is required to provide a written disclosure of the entry in a conspicuous place if he or she entered the property without giving advance notice and while the tenant was away."

I recommend leaving a message for the tenant that you will be entering the property to address the gas and stove issue (immediately).  Then go.  Knock before entering and do your inspection/repairs.  Then leave a sealed envelope on the door with a statement indicating what you did and that the purpose for the inspection was his/her report of malfunctioning stove/gas smell. 

Know your rights as a landlord and enforce your lease. Your tenant cannot hold you hostage - especially with something like this that can endanger life and property.    Go now!

Agree with the others. You are required to give the tenant notice prior to entering; you are not required to get their permission. If it's an emergency, such as a gas leak, you should be able to enter immediately.

You admit this tenant has been a problem. This incident is just more proof of that. Give them the minimum notice required by law and get rid of them. Keep your notice short, professional, and factual without emotion. If they refuse to leave, consult an attorney.

@Alisa SantaAna you have already received great advice above the only thing I will add is, if you ever receive a report of a gas smell s again tell the tenants they must leave the unit immediately. And then call the gas company to investigate. 

A real gas leak can cause an explosion and should only be handled by a pro. If they find nothing you would show your action.  Imagine if there was a leak and a fire you always need to treat a gas leak report as an immediate emergency. 

Thank you all for the responses. To add, the tenant now hasn’t paid rent yet. So, as much as I’ve enjoyed my inherited renter I think the time has come to say goodbye. I attempted contact again with no response. From the initial phone call it sounded like a faulty igniter which is a relatively easy fix. Ive planned a handyman visit to the property in the next 24 hours to get it fixed.

Thank you for your guidance

I haven’t bought a property that hasn’t had a couple bugs to work out, like hvac and plumbing. I’m curious if you have asked the tenant to keep the place cleaner. If you’ve been nitpicking them, then they may be retaliating against you. Don’t expect tenants to keep the house as clean as you do.

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