The Minnesota Cold Weather Rule: Does It Apply to Renters?

apartments in MinnesotaAs the temperature continues to drop in Minnesota, maintaining a comfortable temperature indoors becomes a necessity. Residents know that it can get dangerously cold in the winter, making apartments in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and other Minnesota cities the places in which people will spend most of their time. Fortunately, a regulation called the Minnesota Cold Weather Rule makes it illegal for the city to turn off a renter’s utilities without at least seven days’ notice. This rule works well for people who pay for their utilities directly, but what about renters who don’t control their heat because the landlord takes care of it for them?

Understanding the Minnesota Cold Weather Rule

Before addressing this dilemma, it’s important to know a few basics about the Cold Weather Rule. The city must give a tenant seven days’ notice before shutting off their utilities, in order to give them time to get the appropriate sum of money together. Additionally, the rule offers decreased payment plans for those who realize they can’t afford the normal price of heat and other utilities.

The policy for determining whether you’re eligible for a payment plan is as follows: If a tenant’s household earns less than 50% of the state’s median income, or if a tenant receives energy assistance, a public utility company is not allowed to ask them to pay more than 10% of a tenant’s monthly household income for utilities. In that sense, a reasonable payment plan should be easy to establish with the utility company. If, however, a tenant cannot reach an agreement with the utility company, they may appeal directly to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. During this appeal process, it is unlawful for the city to charge a tenant for utilities, as long as that tenant is actively pursuing the appeal process.

But What If Your Landlord Controls the Utilities?

This detailed regulation is well-constructed, but does not address the issue of landlord-controlled heat. If a tenant cannot personally adjust their thermostat, and it’s not in their hands to pay utilities, what does a tenant do when their apartment is too cold? For a lot of cities, there are established codes that must be followed for landlords to practice lawful conduct. Failing to maintain legal code in regards to heat is grounds for legal action, so landlords must observe the regulations. There are a number of cities in Minnesota that do not have established codes, and if you’re having a problem in one of those cities, it’s recommended that tenants get in touch with the local city hall. There are also two hotlines for tenants: 612-728-5767, 1-866-866-3546, as well as housing attorneys who can be contacted via email.

Putting It All Together

The Minnesota Cold Weather Rule does apply to all renters, but if the utilities in a tenant’s apartment or house are controlled by the landlord, then it is the responsibility of the landlord to make sure the temperature follows the legal code.