Many students want to live on — or near — the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus to experience all the community has to offer. To meet these demands, many new apartment complexes have been built in the neighborhoods surrounding campus. However, especially for first-time renters, navigating the seemingly endless housing options can be challenging. To help students make informed decisions about where to live, the University provides several useful, on-campus resources including Student Legal Service (SLS), Off-Campus Living (OCL) and Housing and Residential Life (HRL).
If you do decide to rent, keep in mind you have rights as tenants, but also responsibilities.
Before you sign a lease
Leases are binding contracts that can be challenging to understand. Before you sign:
● When possible, inspect the actual unit you will be renting, making sure that everything — from the plumbing to the appliances — work;
● Talk to current tenants in the building and ask about their experiences with the landlord and check the UMTC student senate survey;
● Get a written copy of the lease and carefully review it, making sure that you understand: when the lease begins; the total rent due; who is responsible for utilities and waste removal; if there are restrictions on subletting; and when you must vacate, noting if there is an early termination provision.
If you and your landlord agree on modifications to the lease, get it in writing in the lease. Before you sign, SLS can review your lease and answer any questions.
When you move in
The first thing you should do is to carefully document the condition of your unit, documenting it in any checklist provided by your landlord. Keep a copy for your records.
Take photos and have witnesses of what the unit looks like when you start moving in. Be sure to point out any problems or needed repairs to the landlord — in writing — as soon as possible. The SLS Tenant Resource Guide has a sample checklist and templates for communicating with your landlord.
If you’ve decided to move out, be sure to give proper notice. Most landlords require at least a one to two-month written notice. Many leases require notice to terminate even if there is a fixed ending date.
When you give your notice, provide the landlord a forwarding address so you can receive your security deposit. Your landlord has three weeks to return your deposit or state a reason why they are withholding it. If your landlord has made improper deductions, challenge it. If you experience issues, go to SLS for assistance.
Before handing over the keys, clean your unit thoroughly. You must leave it in the same condition as when you moved in, with allowance for reasonable wear and tear. Document any potential problem conditions with photos and notes.
If you don’t understand your lease, have issues or simply want to know about your rights as a renter, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Director, Student Legal Service, usls.umn.edu
Program Director, Off-Campus Living, ocl.umn.edu
Coordinator of Housing Properties, Housing and Residential Life, housing.umn.edu
This letter to the editor has been lightly edited for style and clarity.