Some University of Minnesota students are struggling with confusion over specific terms on leases and promises from campus-area landlords.
This school year, the University Student Legal Service has seen an influx in cases where a student loses a space in the apartment because management has already given it to someone else. The center saw about 140 cases involving lease disagreements last school year and has seen 350 so far this academic year.
Often, this happens during price specials, which could include waiving signing fees, or an overall reduction in rent per month, said Student Legal Service attorney Bill Dane.
While the practice is causing turmoil for some leasers, the practice by landlords is legal — and profitable.
“Everyone has their own interest, and this is always being debated back and forth,” Dane said. “Students need to be aware of it, and they need to know to ask questions.”
Last school year, junior cinema and media culture student Courtney Reistad said she was promised a certain unit at WaHu Student Apartments if she signed quickly with her roommates.
“Then on move-in, we were told that the specific unit we were promised was not actually our unit,” Reistad said. “We went up and it was not anywhere near the square footage we had been told.”
After confronting WaHu management about the problem, Reistad said she and her roommates were told the issue was due to new management and being unfamiliar with the building’s layout.
In addition, she and her roommates realized the lease’s fine print specified that they were signing for the unit they saw — or a similar one.
“It was very chaotic and very unorganized,” said Reistad.
A WaHu manager was not immediately available for comment.
Sophomore health and wellness student Kirsi Merikoski, had a similar case while trying to sign with 412 Loft properties, owned by East Bank Communities in Dinkytown.
Two of her roommates had already re-signed for their same apartment, and management had told her and her friend that the two other spots would be reserved for them.
They were waiting for a time they were both available to sign the lease, she said.
“All of a sudden, the other two got an email saying that the empty spots had been assigned to someone else,” said Merikoski.
Merikoski said she then had to pay fees totaling $700 for moving into a new room and for not having a specific co-signer on her application.
However, Merikoski said, there were fliers around the apartment advertising the waiving of these same fees.
“The leasing office kept saying there were specials if you resign, [but] when we went to resign, they said it was too late,” she said. “Nothing matched up, and it seemed really unorganized,” Merikoski said.
A manager from East Bank Communities did not respond to a request for comment.
Dane said situations like Reistad’s and Merikoski’s are not uncommon cases for the Student Legal Service Center. With cumbersome language in contracts, students are advised to thoroughly read all aspects of these legal documents, he said.
In almost all instances, what landlords and property management are doing with lease agreements is legal, Dane said.