s: I found out from a Shoreview city inspector in December 2021 that the current landlord does not have a rental license. I learned about this problem when a small fire broke out in my kitchen oven on December 30th.
The oven coil automatically started to fire when I turned on the oven. I called 911 for help and the fire department was sent to my apartment. Later that day, I called the Shoreview City Inspector to report the incident.
I called him earlier when I had other unresolved maintenance issues from a previous owner. He told me that he did not have the owner’s name or my contact information and that the owner did not have a valid rental license. The previous owner sold this unit to the current owner at the end of October 2021.
The city inspector indicated via email that the furnace wiring was detected incorrectly and the circuit breaker was old and did not match the code. I was left without an oven in my apartment for 30 days. I tried to negotiate a rent credit for February 2022. The landlord refused to give me rent credit and was angry at me for calling the city for help.
She also told me that I have to move when the lease expires in August 2022 because she wants to move into my unit. I don’t know if my landlord has purchased a rental license yet, but can I sue the landlord for the period of time he did not have a rental license? What are my options in this case?
a: Many cities in Minnesota, such as Shoreview, require landlords to obtain a rental license if they are renting units or apartments to tenants. The rental license may include an annual fee, a simple city notice, an inspection, or some other condition. Licensing requirements vary by city.
Oftentimes there are exceptions to licensing requirements, such as if the homeowner rents rooms in their home while living there. In some cities, a landlord may still be required to obtain a rental license even if they are only renting one room in the house.
In your case, you have a few options. First, you can file a rent security claim with the county to request a rent reduction for those 30 days you were without an oven. Also make it clear on the paperwork that you want a refund of the rent due to the landlord not being licensed. You should also mention in your invitation that your landlord is retaliating, which is illegal, as they told you they wouldn’t renew your lease in August right after you called the city inspector about your fireplace fire.
It can be difficult to get a rent refund or discount based on the landlord not having a rental license, since you have the advantage of getting a place to live. The judge may give the landlord some time to obtain the rental license.
You can also try to resolve the situation with the landlord again by requesting a refund of some rental money for not using your oven for an entire month. Since landlords are legally obligated to keep the rental unit habitable, not having a mains appliance in operation, such as an oven for 30 days, may be considered a violation of your lease.
If the landlord agrees to reduce the rent for one or more future months remaining in the lease, be sure to get this agreement in writing and signed by both parties.
Kelly Klein is an attorney in Minneapolis. Participation in this column does not create an attorney/client relationship with Klein. Do not rely on the advice in this column for legal opinions. Consult an attorney regarding your specific issues. Lease questions via email to [email protected] Information provided by readers is not confidential.