Picture
I am often asked what a landlord should do is a tenant dies.  If a tenant dies and was not married, I generally recommend that a landlord bring an eviction action against that tenant by name, and against the estate of that tenant, if only to get the rental unit back. That way, the landlord will have the legal right to rent the unit again and dispose of any personal property remaining there.

In the event of the death of a tenant, the landlord has three primary concerns: what happens to the lease, dealing with the tenant's personal property, and dealing with the security deposit. I will now address each of these concerns in turn.

Lease

What happens to the lease upon the death of a tenant is governed by Minn. Stat. 504B .265. Basically, the lease continues in force, until the landlord or the tenant (or the tenant's estate) provide notice that the lease has terminated.

The statute provides that either the landlord or the tenant can terminate the lease by providing written notice at least 60 days in advance. In other words, the notice must be given at least two full rental periods in advance. For example, notice given sometime in the month of September actually terminates the lease as of the end of November, and the tenant's estate is on the hook for rent from the date of the notice through the end of the lease.

However, the tenant's estate remains liable for unpaid rent and other amounts due and owing under the lease through the date of the lease termination. The landlord still has to deal with the deceased tenant's personal property as well as the security deposit, but can sue the tenant's estate in conciliation court for the amounts due and owing under the lease, including unpaid rent, unpaid utilities, and damages to the rental unit beyond ordinary wear and tear.

Personal Property Belonging to the Deceased Tenant

The landlord has the duty under Minn. Stat. 504B.271 to secure the tenant's property. This can be most easily accomplished by either changing the locks, if the property is going to be stored in the unit, or moving the property to a no other secured location on site, such as a lockable garage.  Once it becomes apparent to the landlord that the tenant has abandoned the property, the landlord has to secure it, as described above. The landlord has to store the property for 28 days if the property is to be stored on site.

After the property is secured, the landlord has to conduct an inventory of the property. The easiest way to do the inventory is to take digital photographs or a video of the property, accompanied by a list describing the specific items. Big-ticket items, such as a television, should be listed separately, but general categories are okay for other items, such as furniture, electronics, clothing, etc.

The landlord has to mail a copy of the inventory to the tenant (or the estate of the tenant at the tenant's last known address), which is probably the apartment. I recommend posting a sign on the door indicating that property appears to be abandoned to the landlord, the landlord has secured the tenant's personal property and that the landlord may be contacted to set up an appointment to provide access.

The landlord should only provide access to the personal property of a deceased tenant to someone who is named as a personal representative in the tenant's will.   If the tenant died intestate – that is, without a will – I would be very cautious about providing access to the property to a person who is not named or has been appointed as a personal representative. After all – the landlord does not want to be liable to the tenant's estate for improperly disposing of the tenant's personal property.

For more information on dealing with a tenant's personal property, please see my previous blog post on the subject:

http://www.balandlaw.com/3/post/2016/02/what-should-a-landlord-do-with-personal-property-that-a-tenant-leaves-behind-when-the-tenant-moves-out.html

Security Deposit

Security deposits in Minnesota are governed by Minn. Stat. 504B .178. The landlord has to return the security deposit to the tenant within 21 days after termination of the tenancy, with interest, less the amount of damages to the landlord beyond ordinary wear and tear.  When a tenant dies, the security deposit becomes the property of the tenant's estate. The landlord should return any deposit remaining, with appropriate interest, to either the named or appointed personal representative or to the estate of the tenant at the tenant's last-known address, which is probably the rental unit.

For more information on dealing with the security deposit, please see my previous blog post on the subject:

http://www.balandlaw.com/3/post/2016/02/how-should-a-landlord-handle-a-tenants-security-deposit-after-the-tenant-moves-out.html

The death of a tenant presents a complicated situation to the landlord, and every landlord-tenant situation is unique. For that reason, I recommend that landlords talk to an attorney experienced in evictions and landlord tenant law before taking action based on this blog post.  To that end, I invite landlords to give me a call at 763-450-9494 to discuss their unique situation. I typically do not represent tenants.

WARNING: The information contained in this blog post does not constitute legal advice and may not be applicable to your situation.  Tim is licensed to practice law only in Minnesota, and the information contained in this blog post may not apply to jurisdictions outside of Minnesota.  Further, reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C.  You should always discuss your situation with an attorney before taking any action based on what you may read in this blog.  To that end, please call (763) 450-9494 to set up an appointment to discuss your situation.

 
 
Picture
I am often asked what you should do if somebody owes you money. The short answer is that you should probably sue in conciliation (or "small claims") court, although the longer answer depends on what you are owed money for and how much money you are owed.

The jurisdictional limit for suing in conciliation court – or the most you can ask for – is $15,000. So, if somebody owes you $15,000 or less, I would probably recommend suing in conciliation court. However, if you have provided professional services or have done work on a titled piece of personal property (the most common is probably a motor vehicle), then you may have a lien for the amount of your services that could be enforced outside of conciliation court. Of course, if your claim is for more than $15,000, you should consider suing in District Court, where damages are not limited.

To win in conciliation court, you must prove both liability and damages. In other words, you must prove that the defendant actually owes you the money, and the amount that they owe you. If you win your conciliation court case, you will wind up with a conciliation court judgment for the amount of your claim that you were able to prove. The conciliation court judgment will be stayed for a period of time to allow the defendant to appeal, if the defendant wishes.

Once the time for appeal has passed, you should immediately docket (or transfer) the judgment from conciliation court to District Court by filing a document called an Affidavit of Identification of Judgment Debtor. A District Court judgment shows up on a person's credit report, so the defendant will be unable to obtain major financing – such as a mortgage loan – with your judgment on their record. In addition, having a judgment in District Court gives you the right to garnish wages and bank accounts to collect your judgment.

I can't really speak for other attorneys, but I know that I will collect on a judgment for a contingent fee of one third of any amounts collected, less expenses. Typically, I require an expense retainer in advance. Collecting on a judgment is hard work. Whether you are able to collect anything depends on several factors, including but not limited to if the debtor is working, receives public assistance, and has an active bank account set up at a bank or credit union.

Tim represents creditors  – both consumer and business – in collection matters. Tim also represents consumer and small business debtors in bankruptcy, and brings this perspective – the perspective of an attorney representing debtors – to collections. I somebody owes you money, or if you have a judgment that you need help collecting on, please give Tim a call at 763-450-9494 to set up a consultation. Tim charges $250 for a consultation, and will advise you about your rights under the law and options available to you.

DISCLAIMER: Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C. is a debt-relief agency, and Timothy H. Baland, Esq. is a debt-relief agent.  We help people like you to obtain bankruptcy relief.

WARNING: The information contained in this article does not constitute legal advice and may not be applicable to your situation.  Reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C.  You should always discuss your situation with an attorney before taking any action based on what you may read in this blog.  To that end, please call (763) 450-9494 to set up an appointment to discuss your situation.



 
 
Picture
I am often asked whether a landlord should sue a former tenant in conciliation court to recover unpaid rent and other amounts due and owing under the lease. Typically, a tenant will be evicted, abandon the lease, or otherwise move out, but owe a lot of money to the landlord for unpaid rent and damages to the property beyond ordinary wear and tear.  The short answer is yes, for the following reasons.

A landlord stands to receive some if not all of the money the landlord is owed if they get a judgment against a former tenant. After all, a judgment that you get in conciliation court will (if you transfer or transcribe the judgment from conciliation court to District Court) show up on the tenants credit report and interfere with the tenants ability to get financing. A judgment is good for 10 years and can be renewed if it is not paid up.

I had one client who was a landlord who always sued tenants in conciliation court, transferred the judgments to District Court, and then got a call about five or six years later from the former tenants – because they could not get a mortgage with the landlord's judgment on their record.

Conciliation court is – in most cases – a lot faster and cheaper than bringing a lawsuit against a former tenant in District Court. The filing fee is a lot less and the landlord does not necessarily have to follow the strict rules of evidence and rules of civil procedure in effect in District Court. Depending on the county you are in, a hearing in conciliation court will be scheduled about three – four months from the date that you file a statement of claim and summons – or complaint – in conciliation court. The only way that District Court would be faster is if the defendant did not respond to your complaint and you proceeded by way of default.

The jurisdictional limit – or the most money that you can sue somebody for – in conciliation court is $15,000. Unless the tenant has done extraordinary damage to the property, that amount should be more than enough to cover the amounts of unpaid rent and other damages.

For all of these reasons, I think that bringing a claim in conciliation court against a former tenant is a viable option for all landlords. If you have a claim against a former tenant that exceeds $15,000, you should probably talk to an attorney to decide if conciliation court or District Court is the better way for you to proceed.

Every landlord – tenant situation is unique, and I recommend that landlords talk to an attorney experienced in evictions and landlord tenant law before taking action based on this blog post.  To that end, I invite landlords to give me a call at 763-450-9494 to discuss their unique situation. I have represented many landlords in conciliation court, but  typically do not represent tenants.

WARNING: The information contained in this blog post does not constitute legal advice and may not be applicable to your situation.  Tim is licensed to practice law only in Minnesota, and the information contained in this blog post may not apply to jurisdictions outside of Minnesota.  Further, reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C.  You should always discuss your situation with an attorney before taking any action based on what you may read in this blog.  To that end, please call (763) 450-9494 to set up an appointment to discuss your situation.


 
 
Picture
I'm often asked if a person needs an attorney to represent them in a law-related matter.  As a general rule, you should consider hiring an attorney if you care about the outcome of your case.

The longer answer is that it depends on what you are dealing with and the complexity involved.  If you are dealing with a relatively straightforward matter that is uncontested where the parties agree on what should happen, you might be okay representing yourself, but you should understand the consequences of your actions before you make the decision to go it alone.  If you decide to represent yourself, you will also be expected to know the applicable rules of court and held to the same standards as an attorney.

There are few matters that you should handle on your own, without the advice and guidance provided by an attorney.  In criminal matters, you should hire an attorney if you are charged with a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or probation violation where the potential punishment includes time in jail or prison.  In civil matters, you should hire an attorney to represent you in contested matters, where both sides disagree about the outcome, and especially if the other party or parties in your case have an attorney.  In short, you should consider hiring an attorney when there is a lot on the line.

I'll be the first to admit that I am biased here because I am an attorney and would like to have your business, if I am able to accept your case.  Having an attorney on your side does not mean that you will automatically win, or that the attorney will see all of the complexities, nuances, and issues in your case.  However, in my experience, most people who represent themselves will almost inevitably lose.

You will always benefit from having an attorney represent you, because the attorney will not only see and understand the issues involved but also be able to advise you about options available to you and the potential consequences of each option.  Hiring an attorney may cost more than you would like in the short term, but the long-term cost of not taking action now can be much greater.

Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C. represents clients in both civil and criminal matters, and will meet with you to discuss your case and available options.  The fee for such a meeting is $150, and most meetings last 30 - 45 minutes.  Please call (763) 450-9494 to schedule an appointment to discuss your situation today!

WARNING: The information contained in this blog post does not constitute legal advice and may not be applicable to your situation.  Tim is licensed to practice law only in Minnesota, and the information contained in this blog post may not apply to jurisdictions outside of Minnesota.  Further, reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C.  You should always discuss your situation with an attorney before taking any action based on what you may read in this blog.  To that end, please call (763) 450-9494 to set up an appointment to discuss your situation.

 
 
Picture
I generally recommend that a landlord bring an eviction action as soon as a tenant falls behind in rent.  If the landlord lets two or more months go by without demanding that the tenant pay rent, the tenant will believe they can stay in the property without having to pay rent, lease or no lease.  Bringing an eviction action shows the tenant that the landlord is serious about payment of rent, and that the tenant has to pay rent in order to stay in the property.

After the landlord has successfully evicted the tenant, I recommend that the landlord sue the tenant in conciliation court for the unpaid rent and any other amounts due and owing under the lease in order to get a judgment against the tenant, and transfer that judgment from conciliation court to district court..  Although the landlord cannot expect to get any money that day, that week, that month, or even that year, the tenant will eventually want to buy a house, but will be unable to qualify for a mortgage with the landlord's judgment on their record

Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C. represents both landlords and tenants in eviction actions, and in other litigation related to the landlord-tenant legal relationship.  Please call (763) 450-9494 to schedule an appointment to discuss your situation today!

WARNING: The information contained in this blog post does not constitute legal advice and may not be applicable to your situation.  Reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C.  You should always discuss your situation with an attorney before taking any action based on what you may read in this blog.  To that end, please call (763) 450-9494 to set up an appointment to discuss your situation.