Ending The Tenancy


When the landlord or tenant ends the tenancy, he or she must abide by both the terms of the lease and by state law. The notice requirements for periodic and term tenancies differ.

For Periodic Tenancies
If there is no provision in the lease stating how much advance notice must be given to end the tenancy, the law says that written notice must be received by the other party at least one full rental period before the tenancy's last day. This means the day before the last rent payment is due. Minn. Stat. §504.06 (1992); Oesterreicher v. Robertson, 187 Minn. 497, 245 N.W. 825 (1932).

For example, if a tenant who pays rent on the first day of each month (in a month-to-month periodic tenancy) wishes to leave at the end of June, the tenant must inform the landlord of that fact in writing on or before May 31. This is because May 31 is one day before the June rental period begins. No matter when during June the tenant actually leaves, the tenant is responsible for the entire month's rent. If the tenant misses the proper notice deadline - even by a day - the tenant is liable for paying an extra month's rent (July in this case).

The proper notice provision holds true for the landlord as well. if the landlord wants to end the tenancy, he or she must give the tenant advance written notice at least one day before that last rental period begins. If the landlord misses the deadline, the tenancy is automatically extended for another month. Minn. Stat. §504.06 (1992); Oesterreicher v. Robertson, 187 Minn. 497, 245 N.W. 825 (1932).

For Definite Term Tenancies
Procedures for ending this kind of tenancy are generally written into the lease. Tenants with a definite term lease have to pay for the entire term no matter when they leave, unless the landlord agrees to accept new tenants who would take over the remaining payments. But some term leases have provisions allowing the tenant to "break" the lease. Often in such cases, the tenant is required to pay a "breaklease" fee - a sum of money and/or the tenant's security deposit. Such fees must be reasonable in amount and reflect the actual loss the landlord can be expected to suffer in the tenant moves out early.

Some definite term leases spell out what kind of notice is needed to end the tenancy when the lease ends. Typically this is a written notice presented 30 to 60 days before the lease ends. Often such a requirement is part of an automatic renewal provision. Automatic renewal means that if the tenant does not give notice he or she can be held to an additional period of time - for example, one or two months.

But if the automatic renewal is for an extra two months or more, the landlord must give the tenant written notice and call the tenant's attention to the automatic renewal provision. If the landlord does not, the automatic renewal provision cannot be enforced. The renewal notice can be given either personally or by registered or certified mail. It must be received by the tenant 15 to 30 days before the tenant has to give the landlord his or her written notice to vacate. Minn. Stat. §504.21 (1992).

Holdover Tenants
If there is no provision in the lease about what happens when the lease ends (for example, there is nothing said about converting the tenancy to a month-to-month tenancy), the lease simply expires and the tenant becomes a "holdover tenant." At this point, unless the landlord agrees to continue the tenancy or a new lease is signed, the landlord can start eviction proceedings at any time and without notice. However, once the landlord accepts a rent payment from the tenant after the tenancy term runs out, then, by law, the tenancy is automatically renewed for another rental period and it becomes a periodic (usually month-to-month) tenancy. Minn. Stat. §504.07 (1992).

Section 8
State law requires owners of a federally-subsidized housing to give their tenants a one year written notice if:

  1. A Section 8 contract for the housing will expire.
  2. The owner decides to end or not to renew participation in the Section 8 program.
  3. The owner will prepay a mortgage or otherwise terminate a housing subsidy program.

If the lease agreement between the landlord and tenant begins less than one year before any of the above conditions will happen, the owner must give the required written notice to the tenant at the beginning of the tenancy.

Section 8 is a federal rent assistance program that provides rent subsidy payments for low-income families renting privately-owned housing. Under Section 8, a monthly rent subsidy payment is made to the owner and the tenant pays no more than 30 percent of the tenant's income toward rent. For more information on Section 8 and other housing subsidy programs, contact the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, (612) 370-3000, or the local public housing authority listed in the telephone directory.


Tenants who are going to be permanently leaving their units between November 15 and April 15 must tell their landlords they are vacating at least three days before they move out. This allows the landlord time to take steps to make sure the pipes don't freeze. A tenant's failure to notify the landlord is a misdemeanor. The only exceptions to this are cases where the unit's pipes are not subject to freezing or where the tenant is leaving on the day the tenancy is supposed to end anyway. Minn. Stat. §504.08 (1992).


At the end of the tenancy, a landlord must return a tenant's security deposit plus four percent interest, Minn. Stat. §504.20, subd. 2 (1992), or give the tenant a written explanation as to why the deposit (or any part of the deposit) will not be returned. The landlord must do this within 21 days after the day the tenancy ends (and the tenant has given the landlord a forwarding address). If a tenant has to leave because the building is condemned, the landlord must return the deposit within give days after the tenant leaves, and after receipt of the tenant's new address or delivery instructions, (unless the condemnation was due to the tenant's willful, malicious or irresponsible conduct). Minn. Stat. §504.20, subd. (3)(a)(2) (1992). If the landlord does not return the deposit in the time allowed, the landlord must pay the tenant an amount equal to two times the amount of the deposit wrongfully withheld plus interest. Minn. Stat. §504.20, subd. 4 (1992). Minnesota law allows a landlord to withhold from a security deposit only the amount necessary for unpaid rent, Minn. Stat. §504.20, subd. (3)(b)(1) (1992), damages to the rental unit beyond ordinary wear and tear, Minn. Stat. §504.20, subd. (3)(b)(2) (1992), or other money the tenant owes to the landlord under an agreement. Minn. Stat. §504.20, subd. (3)(b)(1) (1992).

When a landlord's interest in the property ends (for example, because of death, foreclosure or contract for deed cancellation), the security deposit must be transferred to either the new owner or the tenant. This must be done within 60 days after the current landlord's interest in the property ends of when the new landlord is required to return the security deposit under the rules discussed earlier, whichever is the earlier time. Minn. Stat. §504.20, subd. 5 (1992). If a landlord does not return or transfer the deposit, the court may penalize the landlord $200 for each deposit not returned or transferred. Minn. Stat. §504.20, subd. 7 (1992).

Interest begins on the first day of the month following the full payment of the deposit. Interest runs to the last day of the month in which the landlord returns the deposit. In those cases where tenants have sued to recover a withheld deposit, interest would run to the day the judgment is entered in favor of the tenant. Minn. Stat. §504.20, subd. 2 (1992).

Taking the Matter to Court
If a tenant does not get the deposit back, or is unsatisfied with the landlord's explanation, the tenant can take the matter to court, (this is usually the conciliation court where the rental property is located). There, it is up to the landlord to justify his or her actions. Minn. Stat. §504.20, subd. (7)(b) (1992).

If the judge decides the landlord acted in "bad faith," the tenant can be awarded up to $200 punitive damages. If a landlord has failed to provide a written explanation, the landlord must return the withheld deposit within two weeks after the tenant has filed a complaint in court, or the court will presume the landlord is acting in "bad faith." Minn. Stat. §504.20, subd. 7 (1992).

NOTE: The law forbids tenants to use their security deposits to pay the rent. Those tenants who do may be taken to court and may have to pay the landlord the amount of the rent withheld plus a penalty. However, before the landlord can take a tenant to court, the landlord must give the tenant a written demand for the rent and a notice that it is illegal to apply the security deposit to the last payment period of the rental agreement. Minn. Stat. §504.20, subd. (7)(a) (1992).