Tenants are front line in residence safety

by Koran Addo

University sophomore Kyle Haus said he caught about 15 mice in the first couple days he lived in his Como Avenue duplex.

Despite this, neither Haus nor his roommate, junior Nick Vannucci, have anything bad to say about their landlord.

The two have lived in the duplex since the beginning of the month, and during that time, their landlord had the mice exterminated, fixed a hole in the bathroom wall and replaced leaky pipes.

Communication between renters and property owners is essential for keeping housing safe, University experts said Monday. Student renters have rights and responsibilities, they said.

Haus and Vannucci are not different from most student tenants, said Marissa Lasky, who manages several properties near campus.

“Students are ideal renters,” Lasky said. “Students are educated, extremely reasonable and just want to have a good time.”

She said to avoid being taken advantage of, students should take several precautions.

All housing in Minneapolis must meet city codes, but many properties are not inspected before tenants move in, said Bill Dane, an attorney with University Student Legal Services.

Instead, the city grants the properties provisional licenses with intent to inspect them eventually. Dane said these inspections sometimes take years to occur, which is why problems begin.

He said students should know their landlord’s responsibilities, which include conducting emergency repairs promptly.

Emergency repairs are those related to fire, water or health issues. If they are not carried out in a reasonable amount of time, students can call city inspectors.

Lasky also said students need to know their rights at the beginning of their rental.

“The most important thing is to read your lease,” Lasky said. “The best opportunity for tenant and landlord to discuss any concerns they might have is at the lease signing.”

Lasky said she recommends students take the time to understand their leases completely.

“In general, the longer and more detailed the lease, the better for both parties,” she said. “This way, there is no hidden agenda.”

Lasky also advised students to work with their landlord to add any amendments to the lease that might be needed because of special circumstances.

Dane said if students are unsure of their housing conditions, they can contact city inspectors, who will provide the landlord with a list of violations that must be fixed.

Lasky also said students should not attempt repairs themselves, because fixing problems without the landlord is usually a lease violation.

Dane said students should not ignore problems. For example, students should call their gas company and then their landlord if they smell gas, he said.

When students move into a property, they should prepare a checklist of anything that does not work, particularly smoke alarms and appliances, officials said. It is the landlord’s obligation to meet housing codes dealing with the number of emergency exits, as well as the number and location of working smoke alarms.