It’s that time of year again. It’s beginning to get cold outside. For some renters in Minnesota, it’s still very chilly inside their homes as well.
This is when we begin to hear from renters across the state who are living in chilly apartments with no way to control the heat. Tenants who pay their own heating bill directly to the utility company are usually covered by Minnesota’s Cold Weather rule, that went into effect on October 15. However, tenants living in rental housing where the landlord controls the heat have different rights.
There is no Minnesota state law requiring a landlord to maintain a minimum temperature for their tenants. Basic Minnesota tenant/landlord law requires landlords to “keep the premises and all common areas fit for the use intended by the parties,” meaning the rental unit must remain “livable” in terms of temperature. This ambiguity can end up being interpreted in different ways since it does not give a specific temperature level.
To help protect tenants rights to warm shelter, some city governments have enacted rules to keep rental housing warm during winter months. We have a guide to heat requirements for many Minnesota cities that is available here. Renters in cities not listed should call their local city hall to inquire about local rental housing heat requirements. Tenants who want to enforce their right to warm housing can also call our tenant hotline: 612-728-5767 (Twin Cities metro area) or 1-866-866-3546 (toll-free from outside metro area) or email a housing attorney here.
Do you think Minnesota should have a statewide minimum heat requirement for rental housing? Have you experienced an extremely cold rental home and had trouble enforcing your rights? Let us know! We want the MN State Legislature to consider this idea in 2014!