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barristerinky
barristerinky, Attorney
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 33794
Experience:  Attorney for over 15 years, landlord 26 years
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I am a landlord and was recently cited by the city of

Customer Question

I am a landlord and was recently cited by the city of Minneapolis for some safety repairs to my rental property. I am in the process of fixing these issues. I was told by the tenant that certain light fixtures were not working. I decided to upgrade the light fixtures and bring the wiring to code (the house was built in 1910 and had nob and tube wiring) I also have not had the unit painted for many years. I decided to do this maintenance the last few weeks of the tenants lease. They are now sending me emails and continued harassment stating that I "should do this maintenance after they vacate" They stated that they are now inconvenienced and that since I am moving in June 30, I should do this maintenance after they move out. They consider these maintenance issues as remodeling not maintenance, MN statute is vague about maintenance. I have been a landlord for 25 years, I left these tenants alone for 4 years, I believe I have the right to do these maintenance thing before I or any other tenant moves in.
They suggested that I have a month without tenants and do the maintenance then, not going to happen.
Submitted: 6 months ago.
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Expert:  barristerinky replied 6 months ago.

Hello and welcome! My name is ***** ***** I am a licensed attorney who will try my very best to help with your situation or get you to someone who can. There may be a slight delay in my responses as I research statutes or ordinances and type out an answer or reply,but rest assured, I am working on your question.

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Was the electrical one of the issues you were cited for?

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Is the painting outside or inside, or both?

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Are you having the electrical service on and off while they are there?

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Are you asking them to move their property out of the way if you are working / painting the inside?

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What is your legal question I can help with tonight?

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thanks

Barrister

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Electrical was not one of the citations, but my tenant told me that the lights in the kitchen did not work, some times they flickered on and off. I decided to bring the wiring to code and change the light fixtures. Their service was not interrupted. Painting was only outside, but I think there is a statute that mandates painting in between tenants. They did have to move their property the the middle of the room, they have had 60 days notice, and they have not packed anything, but are waiting until this weekend. They need to vacate May 30th. Their 60 days notice was up May 24, but I told them I would be moving in July 1, circumstances changed and I needed to move in May 30th.
Expert:  barristerinky replied 6 months ago.

Ok, thank you for that information...

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I am still not quite sure what your legal question it though....

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
My legal questions are these. Do I have the right to upgrade and bring to code the wiring, and paint while they are in the last few days of tenancy, I have given them 24 hrs notice of this work being done. I would have had to do this maintenance for any new tenant, they are just mad because they said I should have done this "remodeling" after they moved out. I have not bothered them for 4 years, I could have done this at any time during their tenancy, but I waited to the end.
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
The Minnesota statute is very vague. It says landlords may enter the unit to do maintenance. They think maintenance is fixing a toilet, water heater, door knob. Not upgrading lights, wiring, painting, floors
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
hello
Expert:  barristerinky replied 6 months ago.

I would have to agree with the tenant on this one. This is more remodeling and upgrading than maintenance. Maintenance would be replacing the light fixture with the loose wire. Rewiring the entire property is upgrading it and the fact that it wasn't cited as a violation means that you can't use that as a reason to come in and make "repairs"..

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As for the painting, if you are painting the interior, then this really isn't for the tenant's benefit, it is for yours as you are essentially doing your upgrades and improvements during their tenancy for your use so you don't have to do so when you are there. Outside painting....fine as you aren't interfering with them living there..

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I would opine that this would violate the tenant's rights to "exclusive use and possession" and "quiet enjoyment" that are inherent in every lease.

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As an aside, in addition to being an attorney, I have also been a landlord for over 26 years, so I have you by a year there..

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I am very sorry that I don’t have better news, but please understand that I do have an ethical and professional obligation to provide customers with legally correct answers based on my knowledge and experience, even when I know the answer doesn’t make the customer happy...

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thanks

Barrister

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
According to the MN Attorney Generals office, I am allowed to do this maintenance, they don't specify what maintenance is. I didn't wire the entire house, just the kitchen, dining room and living room, and brought the wiring to code. Minneapolis has started strict rental property inspections a few months ago, I am well aware that faulty wiring is a huge fire hazard, The fact that the tenant disclosed to me that the lights didn't work and flickered on and off, I took the opportunity to change the light fixtures. The wiring was not to code, so I had to fix that, I couldn't just fix the light. Are there any statutes that address maintenance and what is considered regular maintenance.
Expert:  barristerinky replied 6 months ago.

According to the MN Attorney Generals office, I am allowed to do this maintenance, they don't specify what maintenance is.

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I think it is all how the question is phrased to them as to what response you get... If you ask if you can update old wiring that is not up to Code, they are definitely going to say yes. If you ask them if you can update wiring that hasn't been cited for any issues as defective while a tenant is there and interfere with their contractual lease rights, then the answer will likely be no.

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So it all depends on how you ask the question.. There is no specific statutory definition of "maintenance" because my bet is the legislators wanted to leave that area grey so attorneys could argue it either way... But in the absence of a statutory definition, you look to the plain language definition which is:

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"

main·te·nance

ˈmānt(ə)nəns,ˈmān(t)nəns/

noun

noun: maintenance

1.

the process of maintaining or preserving someone or something, or the state of being maintained."

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So you really aren't "maintaining" here...you are improving, which is a distinct difference.

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If you are intentionally making parts of the house unusable for the tenant during their tenancy, then that is interfering with their contractual rights.

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But all that is kind of a moot point if the tenant isn't taking any action to prevent you from doing the work or filing suit against you alleging a lease violation and suing for a retroactive reduction in rent..

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If the tenant isn't taking any formal action, then my opinion of the situation doesn't really matter. But having been in front of judges hundreds of times, I kind of know how they think and how they will generally rule and if the tenant did try to take some legal action, I think that they would be on firm legal footing with a breach of contract claim..

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thanks

Barrister

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
2015 Minnesota StatutesResourcesSearch Minnesota Statutes
About Minnesota Statutes
2015 Table of Chapters
2015 Statutes New, Amended or Repealed
2015 Statutes Topics (Index)Chapter 504B
Table of Sections
Full Chapter TextSection 504B.161
Version ListTopicsCovenants
Energy Conservation
Estates
Landlords and Tenants
Real Property
Residential Rental PropertyRecent History2007 Subd. 1 Amended 2007 c 136 art 3 s 5
2000 Subd. 1 Amended 2000 c 260 s 70
1999 504B.161 New 1999 c 199 art 1 s 13504B.161 COVENANTS OF LANDLORD OR LICENSOR.§ Subdivision 1.Requirements. (a) In every lease or license of residential premises, the landlord or licensor covenants:
(1) that the premises and all common areas are fit for the use intended by the parties;(2) to keep the premises in reasonable repair during the term of the lease or license, except when the disrepair has been caused by the willful, malicious, or irresponsible conduct of the tenant or licensee or a person under the direction or control of the tenant or licensee;(3) to make the premises reasonably energy efficient by installing weatherstripping, caulking, storm windows, and storm doors when any such measure will result in energy procurement cost savings, based on current and projected average residential energy costs in Minnesota, that will exceed the cost of implementing that measure, including interest, amortized over the ten-year period following the incurring of the cost; and(4) to maintain the premises in compliance with the applicable health and safety laws of the state, and of the local units of government where the premises are located during the term of the lease or license, except when violation of the health and safety laws has been caused by the willful, malicious, or irresponsible conduct of the tenant or licensee or a person under the direction or control of the tenant or licensee.(b) The parties to a lease or license of residential premises may not waive or modify the covenants imposed by this section.4. upgrading the wiring to code.
Expert:  barristerinky replied 6 months ago.

4. upgrading the wiring to code.

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Yes, but you specifically stated that you weren't cited for any violation for the electric.. You can't have it both ways... either you were cited for a violation, which may be against the health and safety laws of the state and require you to repair which could mean upgrading, or you weren't.

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Wiring that is 10 years old is not up to 2016 Code, but that doesn't make it unsafe or a violation of the health and safety laws.. Code changes just about every year but people aren't legally required to upgrade and update each year..

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I think we are going to have to agree to disagree here because I don't think either of us is going to change our minds about the situation..

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thanks

Barrister

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