Student housing forum focuses on student-renters

Event organizers said over-occupancy issues have overshadowed other off-campus housing problems.

by Eric Swanson

Student-renters have plenty of rights and resources available to them when dealing with landlords, panel members said at an annual student housing forum Thursday.

The event, organized by the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, was intended to educate the University community about off-campus housing issues, said Megan Wolff, campus organizer for the group.

She said too much concern has been raised on over-occupancy issues and students’ rights have not gotten enough attention.

Students and panel members discussed inadequate lease agreements, over-occupancy and safety concerns.

Barbara Boysen, a legal assistant at the University Student Legal Service, gave an overview of students’ legal rights.

Students need to seek help if they are having trouble with landlords, she said.

“When in doubt, keep everything in writing and make copies,” Boysen said. “Renting is a business. Keep records.”

Student Legal Service can help students for free at any point in the renting process, from reviewing leases to recovering security deposits, she said.

Marty Nora of Nora Properties said renters need to shop around and make sure everything works before settling on an apartment or house.

“Make sure you think before you just jump into something,” Nora said. “Look around.”

The University area is undergoing several housing inspections for over-occupancy after a Dinkytown duplex fire in September killed three students. So far, inspectors have found problems with 180 of 250 University-area houses, Boysen said.

Prior to the meeting, MPIRG representatives asked students to sign a petition asking the city to revoke renter licenses for landlords with multiple violations. The group will give the petition to the Minneapolis City Council.

The petition is intended to make living environments safer for students and to prevent landlords from future violations, Wolff said.