Terminating a Lease Because of Domestic Abuse

Author: Todd Christiansen | Category: Eviction Law

Hopefully as a landlord you will never need to get in the middle of a domestic abuse situation.  Even as a third party, they can be frightening and difficult to solve.  There are several important points that Minnesota landlords should know when dealing with this situation:

A victim of domestic abuse who fears there is an immenent threat against the tenant or his/her children may terminate the lease under certain conditions:

  • The tenant must provide advanced notice to the landlord in writing.
    • The notice must state that the tenant needs to end the lease and why.
    • The notice must state the date the tenant plans to move out.
    • This notice must be delivered prior to the tenant moving out.
  • The tenant must supply the landlord a copy of the order for protection or no contact order.
  • The tenant is responsible for the rent payment for the entire month in which the termination date falls plus an amount equal to one month’s rent.  These amounts must be paid prior to the termination date on the letter.
You can see that this is not a simple way for tenants to break the lease.  They first must have a court order about the domestic abuse.  Second, they must pay for both the month they leave plus an additional month.  Breaking the lease in this way does not release the tenant from any other rent or other amounts that may be past due.  Lastly, if there are multiple tenants on the lease, the tenant seeking release from the lease under this law is the only one released.  The other tenants are still bound by the lease and it will continue per the original agreement.
On the flip side, the Minnesota Statute 504B.205 prohibits the landlord from limiting a tenant’s “right to call for police or emergency assistance in response to domestic abuse” or from imposing a penalty on the tenant.  In other words, you can not evict someone for calling the police multiple times for domestic abuse.  You may be able to evict someone for disturbing the other tenants or neighbors, but you should consult an eviction attorney.  The tenant may be able to raise their statutory right to request police assistance as their defense against eviction.
Additionally, all other parts of the lease stay intact if the tenant terminates.  This includes all the details surrounding the damage deposit.  As the landlord, you can not keep the damage deposit simply because the tenant broke the lease.  On the other hand, if they leave the property uncleaned or damaged, you would deduct that from the damage deposit just like any typical tenant.  Remember that you must return the deposit within 21 days of the date they moved out (or said they were moving out).
Hopefully you never need to be in the middle of this situation.  Since it can be a difficult landlord experience, I believe it is worth consulting an attorney for help and advice during the process.

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