U groups join forces to explain housing issues

Several meetings are scheduled to teach students about the process of moving off campus.

Eric Swanson

An informational meeting about renting off campus caught Kelly Christiansen’s eye as she lined up at the event’s room reservation.

“I’m going to sign up for a lease for an apartment tomorrow,” the Riverbend Commons resident said Monday night at the St. Paul Student Center, where she works.

Christiansen, who attended one of two sessions held Monday, said she was interested in knowing what to look for in a lease.

Over the next few weeks, potential renters can attend one of many such meetings and a housing fair.

“The one thing you know is that the landlords know a whole lot more than you,” said Bill Dane, an attorney with the University Student Legal Service.

The service is co-sponsoring the meetings, which are designed to target on-campus students looking to move off campus.

“It focuses a lot on what is contained in the lease and the legal implications and responsibilities under that lease,” Mark Karon, University Student Legal Service attorney, said.

He said University Student Legal Service has done something similar every year but has never done a blanket program like this one. It targets the approximately 4,500 students moving out of the dorms and into the community next year.

“We want to let every student know what their legal rights and responsibilities are,” Karon said. “Students should recognize that it is important to understand their rights.”

Event co-sponsor Housing and Residential Life want to publicize the resources available on campus and encourage those planning to live off campus to become involved in their local community, assistant director Susan Stubblefield said.

“We are making sure that we have at least one program in each of the residence halls,” she said, adding that the meetings are not exclusive to those living in the halls.

“Our goal is to have as many educated students about rental issues and leases as possible,” Tom Zearley, Minnesota Student Association facilities and housing chairman said. “We want everyone to come.”

University Student Legal Service has prepared a tenant resource guide which includes lease information, how to address problems with a property or landlord and how to properly vacate a property.

MSA, which is also co-sponsoring the meetings, is also encouraging students to fill out the renter’s survey on the organization’s Web site at www.msa.umn.edu.

The survey is meant to help MSA better represent students with housing issues, Zearley said.

Housing fair

Housing and Residential Life will hold its annual off-campus housing fair Wednesday at Coffman Union.

The fair is intended to inform students about housing issues and answer questions they might have regarding renting and future involvement in local community groups, said Melissa Lathrop, a Housing and Residential Life coordinator.

“This is just another resource to help students,” she said.

Twenty-four off-campus property owners, 12 community groups and various University offices will be present to answer students’ questions, Lathrop said.