University of Minnesota senior Hannah McMahon was told her campus apartment would be move-in ready by the start of the fall semester.
Four days before her scheduled move-in date, management at Prime Place Apartments — which has since rebranded as the Arrow Apartments — told McMahon her apartment wouldn’t be ready for another four weeks. When she finally moved in at the end of September, she found it riddled with shoddy workmanship, sawdust and plumbing problems.
“It was very clear from the beginning that these guys knew what they were doing, and they were banking on the fact that we were college students to not do anything about it,” McMahon said.
Representatives of the Arrow Apartments declined to comment.
McMahon is one of many students who struggle with landlord issues in off-campus housing complexes each year, prompting lawmakers to work with U students on legislation to require landlords to be more transparent.
The bill, on track to be introduced when legislators return to the Capitol for session next week, would require landlords to provide a written lease that identifies the specific unit a renter would receive upon move-in. This is meant to prevent “bait-and-switch” situations where the unit a tenant tours isn’t the one they receive, said Sen. Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, the proposal’s Senate sponsor.
The bill states a lease must also outline specific move-in and move-out dates for renters. If a lease requires a tenant to move out on a date other than the first or last day of the month, it must indicate whether rent will be prorated.
Trish Palermo, president of the university’s Minnesota Student Association, said some students have been blindsided by short-end leases because their move-out date wasn’t transparent in the contract. This issue has been especially problematic for out-of-state and international students, she said.
“All of these efforts are essentially to hold landlords more accountable on our campus and realize that we’re recognizing that we’re not only students,” Palermo said.
The student government organization recently flagged five landlords on campus with three or more unresolved legal issues. That includes the Arrow Apartments, which temporarily displaced McMahon and nearly 400 other students in September due to unfinished construction.
McMahon still lives at the Arrow Apartments but is trying to end her lease. She said her physical and mental health suffered living there.
“It was really, really difficult balancing schoolwork with working with the legalities of the situation,” she said. “I think having a bill of that magnitude that outlines those things will help tremendously, and will give students more of a fighting chance when it comes to issues like this.”
The bill’s House sponsor, DFL Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis, said she has made concessions in shaping the legislation to gain support from Republicans. She expects the measure to receive a bipartisan push during the upcoming legislative session.
“It’s a fully comprehensive bill that sort of addresses a lot of the issues that student renters deal with,” Omar said.
Ryan Faircloth is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.