Tenants should know their rights

View renters’ surveys and beware of only viewing model properties in lieu of the one for rent.

Junior Melissa Ciampo thought sheâÄôd found a great apartment âÄî until she noticed the mold around the sliding glass doors and toilets. âÄúThey didnâÄôt really seem concerned about it,âÄù the nutrition major said about her landlord. âÄúI thought it was kind of odd. Black mold can be dangerous.âÄù The mold wasnâÄôt the only problem Ciampo found with her new home. Soon the ceiling began to leak. CiampoâÄôs situation isnâÄôt unique âÄî students seeking off-campus housing need to be aware of what they sign themselves into when they become tenants. University Legal Services legal assistant Barbara Boysen said the first step is to check out the landlord. Websites, including a renterâÄôs survey conducted by the Minnesota Student Assocation, can provide background on landlords and properties through student and public reviews. Looking at model spaces can give perspective on what a potential apartment could look like. âÄúWe hear stories all the time of landlords showing a prototype or a model apartment,âÄù Boysen said. âÄúIt may not be the one theyâÄôll be renting.âÄù According to Minnesota law, prospective tenants have the right to view the rental unit before they pay landlords any amount of money. For Ciampo, the landlord misled her with a model apartment. âÄúThey showed me a different apartment, a completely different layout than what we ended up getting,âÄù she said. Marleen Geyen, president of Geyen Group Inc., a property management company based in Wayzata, said problems with a neglectful landlord can be frustrating, but it is best for students to be polite. âÄúThe biggest thing that I hear from landlords is the demeanor of students,âÄù Geyen said. âÄúSome students are just demanding and unreasonable.âÄù Geyen, author of âÄúUniversity Wealth,âÄù a housing resource for parents and investors, said it is important to discuss responsibilities with roommates before a lease is signed. Boysen said students need not be reluctant about examining the apartment they will be renting. âÄúThey should not feel reluctant to test out the plumbing, run faucets, closely inspect the appliances,âÄù she said. Landlords are obligated by law to keep a rental unit in compliance with state and local health and housing codes. âÄúSometimes thereâÄôs a sign: a knob is missing from the stove,âÄù Geyen said. âÄúThatâÄôs a little thing, but it can reflect an overall attitude.âÄù Boysen said holding copies of signed documents keeps landlords in check. Minnesota law dictates that a copy of any written lease agreement must be given to tenants. âÄúYou never know what issues will come up down the road or in the middle of tenancy,âÄù Boysen said. âÄúYou want to expect the best of people, but sometimes that doesnâÄôt work out.âÄù