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2008 Minnesota Session Laws

Key: (1) language to be deleted (2) new language

CHAPTER 313--S.F.No. 2909

An act

relating to landlord and tenant; modifying right of tenant to pay utility bills;

amending Minnesota Statutes 2006, section 504B.215, subdivisions 2, 3.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MINNESOTA:

Section 1.

Minnesota Statutes 2006, section 504B.215, subdivision 2, is amended to read:

Subd. 2.

Single-meter utility service payments.

In a residential leasehold contract entered into or renewed on or after August 1, 1995 Except as provided in subdivision 3, the landlord of a single-metered residential building shall be the bill payer responsible, and shall be the customer of record contracting with the utility for utility services. The landlord must advise the utility provider that the utility services apply to a single-metered residential building. A failure by the landlord to comply with this subdivision is a violation of sections 504B.161, subdivision 1, clause (1), and 504B.221. This subdivision may not be waived by contract or otherwise. This subdivision does not require a landlord to contract and pay for utility service provided to each residential unit through a separate meter which accurately measures that unit's use only. This subdivision does not prohibit a landlord from apportioning utility service payments among residential units and either including utility costs in a unit's rent or billing for utility charges separate from rent.

Sec. 2.

Minnesota Statutes 2006, section 504B.215, subdivision 3, is amended to read:

Subd. 3.

Procedure.

(a) When a municipality, utility company, or other company supplying home heating oil, propane, natural gas, electricity, or water to a building has issued a final notice or has posted the building proposing to disconnect or discontinue the service to the building because a landlord who has contracted for the service has failed to pay for it or because a landlord is required by law or contract to pay for the service and fails to do so, a tenant or group of tenants may pay to have the service continued or reconnected as provided under this section. If a building is posted, the posting must be placed in at least one conspicuous location in the building and provide tenants with, at a minimum, the following information:

(1) the date the service will be discontinued;

(2) the telephone number to call at the utility to obtain further information;

(3) a brief description of the rights of tenants under this section to continue or restore service; and

(4) advice to consider seeking assistance from legal aid, a private attorney, or a housing organization in exercising the rights of tenants under Minnesota law to maintain their utility service.

Before paying for the service, the tenant or group of tenants shall give oral or written notice to the landlord of the tenant's intention to pay after 48 hours, or a shorter period that is reasonable under the circumstances, if the landlord has not already paid for the service. In the case of oral notification, written notice shall be mailed or delivered to the landlord within 24 hours after oral notice is given.

(b) In the case of natural gas, or electricity, or water, if the landlord has not yet paid the bill by the time of the tenant's intended payment, or if the service remains discontinued, the tenant or tenants may pay the outstanding bill current charges for the most recent billing period, if and the utility company or municipality will must restore the service for at least one billing period. In a residential building with less than five units, one of the tenants may notify the utility company or municipality that the tenant agrees to become the bill payer responsible and customer of record and the utility company or municipality must place the account disconnected or subject to disconnection in the tenant's name and provide service prospectively, provided the tenant satisfies all requirements for establishing service. A tenant becoming the customer of record of a cooperative electric association does not acquire membership rights. Exercise of the right to pay the current charges for the most recent billing period does not preclude exercising the right to become the bill payer responsible and customer of record, provided that if there are multiple tenants in an affected multifamily building, the utility company or municipality is not required to offer the right to become the bill payer responsible and the customer of record to more than one tenant in a 12-month period.

(c) In the case of water, if the landlord has not paid the bill by the time of the tenant's intended payment or if the service remains discontinued, upon request from a tenant, a municipality must provide a copy of each bill the landlord fails to pay. The tenant:

(1) has a continuing right to pay the current charges for the most recent billing period and retain service;

(2) has the period of time provided by the governing ordinance, policy, or practice within which to pay the charges;

(3) is not subject to any deposit requirements; and

(4) is entitled to reasonable notice of any disconnection.

This paragraph does not require a municipality to alter its accounting system or billing records if the tenant exercises the right to pay current charges and retain water service. If there are multiple tenants in an affected property, the municipality is not required to offer the right to pay current charges and retain service to more than one tenant in a 12-month period.

(d) For purposes of this subdivision, "current charges" does not include arrears or late payment fees incurred by the landlord.

(c) (e) In a single-metered residential building, other residential tenants in the building may contribute payments to the utility company or municipality on the account of the tenant who is the customer of record under paragraph (b) or on the landlord's account under paragraph (c).

(f) A landlord who satisfies all requirements for reestablishing service, including paying, or entering into an agreement acceptable to the utility company or municipality to pay, all arrears and other lawful charges incurred by the landlord on the account that was placed in the tenant's name, may reestablish service in the landlord's name.

(g) This section does not restrict or prohibit a municipal utility provider from exercising its authority pursuant to section 444.075, subdivisions 3 and 3e, to make contracts with and impose utility charges against property owners and to certify unpaid charges to the county auditor with taxes against the property served for collection as a tax.

(h) In the case of home heating oil or propane, if the landlord has not yet paid the bill by the time of the tenant's intended payment, or if the service remains discontinued, the tenant or tenants may order and pay for one month's supply of the proper grade and quality of oil or propane.

(d) (i) After submitting receipts for documentation to the landlord of the tenant's payment to the landlord utility company or municipality, a tenant may deduct the amount of the tenant's payment to the utility company or municipality from the rental payment next paid to the landlord. Any amount paid to the municipality, utility company, or other company by a tenant under this subdivision is considered payment of rent to the landlord for purposes of section 504B.291.

Presented to the governor May 12, 2008

Signed by the governor May 15, 2008, 2:44 p.m.

700 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155 ♦ Phone: (651) 296-2868 ♦ TTY: 1-800-627-3529 ♦ Fax: (651) 296-0569