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I am often asked what the landlord should do if the tenant either brings a rent escrow or tenant remedies action, or otherwise complains about the condition of the property. Sometimes, the tenant request a particular repair, and then complains about how long it is taking to make that repair.

The short answer is that the landlord should consult with an attorney experienced in rent escrow or tenant remedies actions. I will talk about each in the rest of this article, but suffice it to say that the landlord should make repairs affecting the habitability of the property as quickly as reasonably possible. Under Minnesota law, the landlord has promised to provide a habitable place for the tenant to live. The landlord's duty of habitability is sometimes called the covenant of habitability.  In practice, this means that the landlord must make sure that the rental unit is safe and has a working front door and lock, and that the heat, hot and cold water, stove, plumbing, and electrical are all safe and functional.

The tenant can request repairs, and for big ticket items affecting the covenant of habitability I recommend that the landlord make those repairs immediately. For example, if a tenant complains about lack of heat in winter, the landlord should fix the problem right away. A tenant might also complain about items that do not affect the habitability of the unit. For example, a tenant might complain about an interior door that is off of its hinges.

I am not saying in any way that the landlord has to pay for damages caused by the tenant. If the tenant damages a unit (say, by punching a hole in the wall), and then request a repair, the landlord should still make that repair, but the time and materials necessary to effect the repair should be put on the tenant's account statement as damages beyond ordinary wear and tear.

A tenant has three basic options when it comes to addressing issues caused by the landlord's failure to make repairs. For this reason, I recommend that a landlord make repairs as soon as possible. The first two options are related – a tenant could bring a tenant remedies action, or emergency tenant remedies action to force the landlord to make the requested repairs. The third option is that a tenant could bring a rent escrow action.

In an emergency tenant remedies action, the tenant only has to give the landlord 24 hours advance notice of the tenant's intent to bring an emergency tenant remedies action. The judge might issue an order immediately requiring the landlord to either make repairs, put the tenant up in a hotel, or something else. Typically, however, the matter will be set for a hearing to determine if repairs need to be made.

In a regular tenant remedies action, the tenant is again asking the judge to order that the landlord complete repairs, but the rental unit must be inspected by a governmental inspector, the landlord has to of been notified of the repairs needed and the tenant's intent to bring a tenant remedies action at least 14 days in advance of the tenant bringing a tenant remedies action, and had a "reasonable" time to complete them.

The tenant might also bring a rent escrow action, but the tenant must notify the landlord of the needed repairs at least 14 days prior to bringing the rent escrow action. In a rent escrow, the tenant deposits rent into court (in other words, into escrow) and seeks to have rent abated – that is, reduced – for having to live with the lack of repairs until the repair is made.  In a rent escrow action, I generally recommend that the landlord file a counterclaim for possession, but this is not an appropriate action in all cases, especially when the tenant has deposited the full amount of rent into court.

Still, a landlord does not want to get to a point where a tenant either brings an emergency tenant remedies action, a tenant remedies action, or a rent escrow action. For all of these reasons, I generally recommend that the landlord make repairs promptly, especially if those repairs affect the habitability of the unit.

Every landlord – tenant situation is unique, and I recommend that landlords talk to an attorney experienced in tenant remedies actions, rent escrows, 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, 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.

 
 
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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.

 
 
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If you have filed or are about to file a bankruptcy petition, you are undoubtedly wondering what effect the federal government shutdown will have on your case.  The United States Judiciary, which includes bankruptcy courts, issued the following statement in response to the partial federal government shutdown:

JUDICIARY OPEN DURING GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

Following a government shutdown on October 1, 2013, the federal Judiciary will remain open for business for approximately 10 business days. On or around October 15, 2013, the Judiciary will reassess its situation and provide further guidance. All proceedings and deadlines remain in effect as scheduled, unless otherwise advised. Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) will remain in operation for the electronic filing of documents with courts.  More locally, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the district of Minnesota issued a similar statement, concluding with: All proceedings and deadlines remain in effect as scheduled and CM/ECF will be available for the electronic filing and review of documents.

The question is how this affects you.  The short answer is that it depends on whether you have already filed for bankruptcy, and if so, how far your bankruptcy case has progressed before the federal judiciary "reassess[es] its situation."  Bankruptcy filers should expect:
  • Delays or cancellation of Meetings of Creditors
  • Delays in confirmation of Chapter 13 plans
  • Delays or cancellation of bankruptcy court hearings

If you have already filed for bankruptcy, then you can reasonably expect some delay in the processing of your case. Likewise, if you have not yet filed your bankruptcy petition, you should expect some delay, and you may not be able to file until the government shutdown has ended.

I suspect that debtors that have already had their Meeting of Creditors, are not reaffirming debts for personal property (such as an automobile) and have no other hearings scheduled in bankruptcy court will experience less delays than debtors whose cases have not progressed so far and do not meet these criteria.  However, if the federal judiciary, including bankruptcy courts, shuts down, then all cases could come to a complete halt.

Still, these potential outcomes and conclusions are only speculation -- and pretty rampant speculation at that --  on my part.  The best course of action is probably to wait for an announcement from the United States Judiciary on October 15, 2013 as to what it is going to do.  I will update this post as appropriate, so please check back for future updates.

Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C. represents consumer debtors in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceedings.  Please call (763) 450-9494 to schedule an appointment to discuss your situation today and find out whether declaring bankruptcy is the right option for 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.