Rights and Responsiblities

Tenants' Rights and Responsibilities

The following provides information about tenants' rights and responsibilities. For more information contact Mankato's Rental Office at 387-8617.

Background/Getting Started
Renting an apartment or house, whether its your first time or not, can be both exciting and frustrating. The responsibilities that go along with being a tenant are governed not only by the state, but by local ordinances as well. The Minnesota Attorney General's Office publishes a handbook called "Landlords and Tenants: Rights and Responsibilities," that outlines the expectations spelled out by state statutes. The handbook is available at no cost and can be obtained by calling the Attorney General's Office at (651) 296-3353 or 1-800-657-3787 (TDD 1-800-366-4812).

In addition to the state guidelines, there are a few things you should know before you decide to rent property in Mankato. By incorporating nationally recognized building, mechanical, fire, electrical and plumbing codes, the City of Mankato has developed a Uniform Housing and Residential Maintenance Code. The purpose, first and foremost, is to provide safe, sanitary housing. Your lease with your landlord is a legally binding contract of which the City of Mankato has no part. Except for the provisions outlined in the city ordinance, the city will not get involved in breaches of your lease in any way, including evictions.

If you have additional questions, contact the Rental Inspection Office 387-8617. 

Licensing
Before you move into your new apartment, your landlord must have and be able to show proof of a rental license. It is illegal to offer a dwelling for rent without a current rental license. The license lets you know, among other things, that the place in which you are going to live has been inspected, either by building officials, or by a Mankato Department of Public Safety firefighter, or both, and has been approved as rental property. In order to make sure that your apartment stays in compliance, routine inspections are conducted by the Mankato Department of Public Safety. Your landlord should let you know in advance so that you are not taken by surprise and can have all pets caged or secured.

Many tenants are surprised to see the fire engine arrive at their home for an inspection. This is necessary because the firefighters need to be ready to respond to an emergency at all times ­even during the inspection. If your landlord lives outside the local calling area, he or she will need to enlist a local agent who may act on his or her behalf at inspections and in case of an emergency.

Complaints
If there is any part of your apartment that does not meet the minimum requirements of the city code, you may make a complaint with the City Rental Office by calling 387-8617. Likewise, any neighbor or other citizen can file a complaint about the appearance of your apartment building or the property it is on. Complaints involving life-safety issues will take priority over a junk car or trash in the yard, but all complaints will be investigated by the Mankato Department of Public Safety. Anyone making a complaint will be asked to provide his or her name, but that information will be classified as confidential and will not be released except by a court order. This is a local ordinance as well as a state statute.

Once again, the City of Mankato will not get involved in any lease disputes between landlord and tenant unless those issues are outlined in the city code. Therefore, not only is it a crime for your landlord to retaliate against you for making a complaint, it is likewise illegal for you to make a false or malicious complaint about your apartment. This applies to anyone who would try to get even with a complainant or a property owner.

Heating
Your landlord must provide enough heat to keep your apartment at or above 68 degrees ­ even when the outside temperature is 20 below zero. This may be accomplished by the central furnace and/or permanent, fixed heaters. Your landlord cannot use portable space heaters or kitchen appliances to keep the units at the proper temperature. Furnaces are not to be installed in any room used as a bedroom, bathroom, or closet.

Utilities/Mechanical
It is your landlord's responsibility to see that all electrical equipment, wiring and appliances in your apartment are installed and maintained in a safe manner in accordance with applicable laws. All flues and vents on natural gas water heaters and furnaces must be secure to minimize the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning. Whether your apartment has a fuse box or a circuit breaker, the operating face of the panel must be accessible. For newer units, ventilation by means of a window or mechanical vent fan connected directly to the outside must be provided in all bathrooms containing a tub and/or shower.

Egress/Exits
While locks on doors are essential for maintaining your safety and the security of your property, double-keyed dead bolts, operated with a key from both sides of the door, are not allowed. Also, any common exit doors in a multiple-unit apartment building must be openable from the inside. All rooms used or designated as sleeping rooms must have one primary means of egress (usually the bedroom door) and one secondary means of egress, which is usually a window, but is sometimes another door. This allows you a second route to escape in case the primary route is blocked in an emergency.

There are minimum standards for windows to be designated as the secondary means of egress. Acceptable egress windows will have a clear opening width of 20 inches, and a clear opening height of at least 24 inches, but must have a clear openable area of at least 5 square feet. (Please note: a window measuring 20' X 24' ­ 3.3 square feet ­would be less than the required openable area.) So, if a window has an openable width of 20 inches, it would need to open to a height of 36 inches to meet the requirements. Egress windows cannot be more than 48 inches from the floor. If the egress windows in your apartment do not meet the above requirements, your landlord will be encouraged to remedy the situation. If he or she does not, they are required to inform you that their rental license includes the following: Windows within some or all of the sleeping area(s) of this rental unit do not comply with housing code standards for egress in case of emergency. If the bedroom windows in your apartment are so small or configured in such a manner that egress is not allowed, the inspectors have the authority to order installation of proper egress windows.

While your landlord must provide acceptable means of egress, you have a responsibility to ensure that these means of egress are not blocked. Some typical items the firefighters find blocking egress doors and windows are furniture, window air conditioners, snow/ice and clutter. Knowing your primary and secondary ways out, and keeping them unblocked, are critical to your safety in case of fire.

Fire Protection
All rental properties in Mankato that have an attached garage must have a one hour or equivalent fire separation between the garage and the house. If the property you rent does not have a fire separation, your landlord will be required to comply by December 31, 2003. This deadline also applies to fire separation underneath any staircase when the space below the steps is used for storage. It is important to keep these fire barriers sound by not cutting or putting holes in them.

If your apartment does not already have one, your landlord is required to provide a functional, multipurpose ABC fire extinguisher by December 31, 1999. This can be either a "1A10BC" fire extinguisher in each individual unit, or a "2A10BC" extinguisher on each floor, in common areas, no more than 50 feet from the entrance door of any apartment on that floor. It is important for you to keep this extinguisher in an accessible location and in good working order at all times. If the gauge indicates the extinguisher is no longer charged, contact your landlord to have it repaired.

All existing residential properties in Mankato, whether they are licensed as rental property or not, are required to have working smoke detectors in the following locations:

  • On the ceiling or wall adjacent to each sleeping area;
  • In the center of the ceiling above stairways when sleeping areas are on an upper level;
  • In the basement if the stairway opens into the rental unit.
  • New apartment buildings will be required to have hardwired detectors with battery backup in the above locations, as well as in each sleeping room.

If you cannot hear the detectors sounding from everywhere within your apartment, they must be interconnected.

Anyone who willfully disables a smoke detector or causes it to be no-functioning is guilty of a misdeamaner. If you discover a non-functioning detector in your apartment, you are required to give your landlord written notice within 24 hours and provide a copy of this notice to the Rental License Office. If you fail to notify your landlord, you are guilty of a petty misdemeanor.

Off-Street Parking
All rental property licensed after August 3, 1998 needs to provide off-street parking. The number of parking stalls for one-and two-family rentals is based on the square footage of the sleeping rooms, with a minimum of two parking stalls for a one-family dwelling and a minimum of four parking stalls for a two-family dwelling. At least two parking stalls are needed for each unit of a multiple-family dwelling.All rental property licensed prior to August 3, 1998, if it has sufficient yard area, will also need to comply with the above requirements.

Since it is difficult for you to know when your apartment was licensed and under what parking rules you fall, ask your landlord where your parking space(s) are and abide by those rules. Since the rules vary, do not assume you can follow your neighbor's example. Parking citywide is strictly enforced and improper parking may result in a citation. Also, beware of special parking instructions during times of heavy snowfall. Keep yourself informed by listening to local news during these times.

Responsibilities
As a tenant, you have an obligation to help keep your apartment or rental unit in compliance. This includes making sure all garbage and waste is disposed of properly, as well as keeping your premises safe and sanitary.

Conduct on Rental Property
Landlords are held responsible for the conduct of the people on their property. Therefore, loud parties and other disruptive activity, which results in the police being called, may put your landlord's license in danger of being revoked. Landlords are responsible for and do deal effectively with disruptive tenants. It is in all parties' best interest for you to act responsibly on your rented property.