Editorial: Avoiding harrowing housing situations is harder than it looks, but here are a few tips

Finding the right housing is hard enough, take the time to make sure you’re making the right choice.

It’s common knowledge that apartments near University of Minnesota campuses aren’t necessarily the most reliable, but it’s still shocking to hear alarming stories. Last week, the Minnesota Daily reported on newly discovered potential health risks to workers who installed carpets at The Arrow Apartments. This is just one of many factors that may steer students away from leasing. Though many situations aren’t this extreme, predatory landlords still try to swindle students into a bad lease. To avoid these situations, consider the following tips provided by the University’s Student Legal Services and Off Campus Living.

Do your research

Off Campus Living suggests thoroughly researching each property before signing a lease. Go to the city’s website to look for a valid rental license and more. Check the OCL’s list of non-compliant landlords, Google the building owner and call the city to see if any complaints have been filed.

Ask around for reviews

You always read the reviews before seeing a movie, right? You should be doing the same before leasing. When it doubt, ask your friends, peers and classmates if they know anything. While word of mouth isn’t the most viable option, it can be truthful. Hearing from past and current residents can shed light on issues that you may not otherwise hear.

Get everything in writing

Some landlords near the University’s campus are known for leaving renters off the lease, which is substandard and unreliable. Make sure everything you discuss with a potential — and current! — landlord is in writing, especially the number and names of tenants. While asking for everything in writing may seem mindless, you will (hopefully) avoid exploitative landlords. 

Carefully review the lease

Make sure you’re not just signing the first thing your potential landlord hands you. Ask for a day or two and read over the lease, carefully, with Student Legal Services or a parent. It’s important to know your rights as a renter, as well as knowing everything that you’re legally obliged to once you sign the lease. 

Always obtain renters insurance

Purchasing renters insurance should be at the top of your to-do list when leasing an apartment. According to Off Campus Living, renters insurance covers “damage or loss” and can replace items valued above your deductible. OCL strongly recommends obtaining this type of insurance if your belongings aren’t covered on your parents’ insurance policy. And if your landlord says you won’t need renters insurance — it’s best to find a new complex.

Finding off campus housing can be tricky, especially in an oversaturated market. But following these few tips can lead to a safe lease. For more tips, look to the Off-Campus Living website and this Minnesota Student Association initiative. If you need off-campus housing legal aid or advice, contact the University Student Legal Services at [email protected] or Off Campus Living at [email protected].