Of landlords and roommates

Many students don’t have experience being proactive in managing housing conflicts.

by Courtney Johnson

I will always remember being handed my first set of keys to the first off-campus apartment I rented. On that hot September day, my roommates and I were handed a copy of our lease and several coupons for Dinkytown establishments and eagerly settled into our new off-campus humble abode.

For the most part, University of Minnesota students are first-time renters. As a result, uncertainties about the process of leasing might arise in addition to the occurrence of frustrations with roommates. Because most students lack previous experience handling issues related to landlords and roommates, knowing how to effectively manage both of these issues is something that a lot of people must, unfortunately, learn the hard way.

One important thing to remember is to never feel rushed when preparing to sign a lease. A lot of times, due to limited availability of off-campus housing around the University, students feel pressured to sign something âÄî anything âÄî as soon as they can. However, while in a frenzy to sign, inexperienced renters might not be aware of all of the expectations placed by landlords.

Upon signing a lease and moving into an apartment, an understandable expectation is that students are able to pay rent on time each month; never forget that signing a lease is a business transaction. But, letâÄôs be honest, as a busy first-time renter, it is likely that rent might not get paid on time every single month. As a result, late fees serve as a consequence to this oversight. Late fees have the ability to cause a lot of anxiety for students. However, what a lot of students do not know is that a law passed through the State of Minnesota legislature, effective Jan. 1, 2011, which states that landlords are not legally able to charge late fees in excess of 8 percent of the overdue rent payment. This new law prevents landlords from overcharging their tenants and is particularly helpful for the inexperienced renter.

In addition to this, if students are ever uncertain about their rights as a tenant, the University Student Legal Services assists students who pay the Student Services Fee with a scheduled appointment. Included in their services are lease interpretation and explanations to security deposits or unlawful evictions. This resource is helpful to students who want to increase their understanding in the case of damages to the property and to what extremes would have to occur to be evicted.

For first-time renters, something that is common are disputes amongst roommates. My friends and I learned very quickly that when it comes to handling these types of issues, the best way to handle things is not with passive aggression, trash talk or accusations. This may seem like common sense, but it never ceases to amaze me how often arguments about dirty dishes or an overflowing trash can are started. The best way to avoid grouchy, annoyed or downright angry roommates is to hash things out like the mature adults that we as college students (sometimes) are.

With this, though, a few words of warning must be addressed. When talking about any housing-related issue with a roommate, it is important to be careful about how it is presented to them. Having an accusatory or unfriendly tone can cause for even more unwanted tension. It is also advised to discuss expectations about the house or apartment at the start of the lease. That way, possible future uncomfortable situations are avoided.

Ultimately, as a new renter and roommate, there are many responsibilities that emerge. Taking initiative and approaching these responsibilities in a productive way will allow students to have a wonderful experience living off campus.