tenants and landlords

Search our website:
City Events

Tenants and Landlords

JUNE 13, 2023, Tenant Meeting

The City of Columbia Heights held a tenant meeting on June 13, 2023, in the Library Community room. Mayor Amáda Márquez Simula, Councilmembers Connie Buesgens and KT Jacobs, and Assistant Fire Chief Dan O’Brien attended the meeting. The meeting’s intent was to give tenants an overview of the city’s property maintenance and rental licensing program, focusing on inspections and license revocations. Elizabeth Saur of Central Minnesota Legal Services and Ivory Taylor of the Housing Justice Center were present to educate and discuss tenants' legal rights and options. The presentations were followed by a question-and-answer session and informal discussion time where tenants could speak with the resources present. The city has generated an informative handout from a question-and-answer segment which can be found here.

Tenants and Landlords 
Tenants and landlords should understand their rights and responsibilities and keep an open line of communication. They are encouraged to read Landlords and Tenants: Rights and Responsibilities, a free handbook from the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office. It spells out state statute requirements and expectations for renters and rental property owners. Minnesota Statutes § 504B.181, subd. 2(b) requires landlords to notify residential tenants that this handbook is available to them.

It is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure safe, sanitary conditions for the rental property by keeping the property up to code. This does not mean the tenants are free of obligation. Renters are expected to behave lawfully in a way that complies with community standards, respect the property and pay for any damages caused to the property beyond normal wear and tear, avoid making structural alterations to the property without the landlord’s permission, pay rent on time, and notify landlords three days in advance before vacating the property between Nov 15 and April 15.

Landlords and Tenants: Rights and Responsibilities, from the Office of the Minnesota Attorney General

Who Is A Tenant? 
A tenant is a person or entity who temporarily occupies or possesses real estate that belongs to a landlord. According to State Law, caretakers and other individuals who exchange their services (instead of money) for rent are legally considered tenants. As such, these individuals are entitled to all rights and remedies provided to tenants by law. Tenants in federal housing and other forms of subsidized housing have additional rights under federal law. 

According to Minnesota law, when the owner of a house or apartment agrees to give to someone else—for money or labor—the temporary use of that place, the two have entered into a legally binding rental contract. It doesn’t matter if the agreement is oral or in writing. It is an agreement to rent, and that means some of its most important terms are automatically defined by law.

Columbia Heights Property Maintenance and rental licenses
The Columbia Heights Fire Department enforces the City of Columbia Height’s Property Maintenance Code and licenses rental property under the code. This code was adopted in 1989 to provide minimum maintenance standards of existing properties in the City. Potential landlords should review the City's licensing requirements here. A property cannot be occupied until a license application is approved by the City Council and the license is issued.

If you have further questions about this or any other rental inspection details, please call Assistant Fire Chief Dan O’Brien at 763-706-8154 or email - dobrien@columbiaheightsmn.gov.  

Repair Problems
Minnesota law requires landlords to keep units in reasonable repair. This requirement cannot be waived. However, the landlord and the tenant can agree the tenant will do certain specific repairs or maintenance if:
  1.  This agreement is in writing and conspicuous (easy to notice); and
  2.  The tenant receives something adequate in return (for example, a rent reduction or payment from the landlord for the work).
If the tenant has trouble getting the landlord to make necessary repairs in the unit, the tenant may use one or more of the following remedies:
  1.  File a complaint with the local housing, health, energy or fire inspector and ask that the unit be inspected. A landlord may not retaliate by filing an eviction notice, increasing rent, or decreasing services because a tenant contacts an inspector. If management fails to make required repairs within two weeks of notification, the tenant may file a rent escrow action. 
  2.  Place the full rent in escrow with the court, and ask the court to order the landlord to make repairs.
  3.  Sue the landlord in district court under the Tenant’s Remedies Act.
  4.  Sue in conciliation court or district court for rent abatement (this is the return of part of the rent, or, in extreme cases, all of the rent).
  5.  Use the landlord’s failure to make necessary repairs as a defense to either the landlord’s Eviction Action based on nonpayment of rent or the landlord’s lawsuit for unpaid rent.
  6. Tenants may withhold rent if there is a serious repair problem or code violation not being addressed. Because the tenant may have to defend this action in court, it may be better to use a Rent Escrow Action; however, if the tenant chooses to withhold rent, the tenant should follow these steps:

    -Notify the landlord, in writing, of the needed repairs (both parties should keep a copy) and give the landlord a chance to make repairs.
    -Notify the fire inspector if the landlord does not make the repairs.
    -Get a written copy of the inspector’s report.
    -Notify the landlord in writing that all or part of the rent will be withheld until the repairs are made.
  1.  Rental property owners are required to notify residential tenants of the availability of the following handbook: 
    Office of the Minnesota Attorney General Landlords and Tenants' Rights and Responsibilities
  2.  Rental Property Owners are required to include a Crime Free/Drug-Free and Disorderly Use Lease Addendum to all leases.
  3.  Landlords must provide their tenants, in writing, with the name and address of: The person authorized to manage the premises and the owner of the premises or the owner’s authorized agent (the person or entity that will be receiving any notices or demands). The addresses given must be a street address, not a post office box number, because it must be an address at which papers can be served (handed to the recipient). The disclosure can be inserted in the lease or can be put in some other written form. It must also be printed or typed and posted by the landlord in some clearly visible place on the premises. The disclosure is important because the tenant must be able to contact the landlord or agent when repairs are needed or other problems arise. Also, a landlord cannot take any legal action against a tenant to recover rent or to evict the tenant unless the disclosure has been given. Tenants who move out of a rental unit, or sublet their unit without giving the owner 30 days’ written notice, lose the protection of the disclosure law.
  4. The terms of any rental agreement must be stated in the lease. This can be either a signed, written document or an oral agreement. The landlord may ask for the tenant’s full name and date of birth on the lease or application. If a building contains 12 or more residential units, the owner must use a written lease. An owner who fails to provide a written lease as required is guilty of a petty misdemeanor. If there are fewer than 12 residential units, the owner may use an oral agreement without violating the law. If there is a written lease, tenants must be given a copy of the written lease.
other resources
Columbia Heights City Code
Home Line Tenant Advocacy nonprofit
Volunteer Lawyers Network
Central Minnesota Legal Services, free legal representation in non-criminal matters for low-income residents of Anoka County
Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid for free civil legal assistance to low-income people facing eviction, housing discrimination, and more. 
Live Smoke-Free Minnesota provides resources to help tenants find smoke-free buildings.
Community Mediation & Restorative Services, Inc is a nonprofit community-based mediation and restorative justice provider.
Emergency Assistance from MNbenefits.mn.gov
Family Housing Fund provides resources to help support households impacted by COVID-19.
Columbia Heights Permit and Building Inspection Info