Issues rise with student leasing

University Student Legal Services give students legal housing advice.

Ibrahim Hirsi

Katie Hayes  was so busy last March that she didn’t look over the lease for her new house.
Now, she’s one of many University of Minnesota students who found an unpleasant surprise in what she signed.
“There were a lot of hidden fees that I was unaware of when signing the lease,” the literature sophomore said.
According to her lease, tenants must pay extra money for some utilities, she said. Hayes learned after she moved in that she had to pay $30 a month for air conditioning and fridge units.
 “I rushed to get an apartment at an affordable price,” she said. “I figured that all the good ones would be gone.”
But hasty lease signatures by University students can raise issues during tenancy, said Mark Karon, director of University Student Legal Service.
For students like Hayes, the legal service offers counseling before and after signing apartment and house leases, Karon said.
Of the cases which the service handles, 20 to 30 percent are landlord-tenant issues, accounting for 532 cases last academic year, he said.
Hayes said she was too swift to sign a lease in March for an apartment she moved into this summer.
Sports management senior Matt Mangskau said there were clauses in his lease he didn’t see until after moving into a Classic City Apartments building.
“We didn’t even look at that before, and we wanted to switch places,” Mangskau said. “Now we still live there this year even though we kind of wanted to buy out of it.”
Minnesota Landlord Association President David Garves said landlords don’t purposely put something in the lease that is deceiving or confusing, but most of the confusion comes from legal terms.
Though most landlords would like potential tenants to take the lease home to review, too often people sign the minute that it’s put in front of them, Garves said.
To protect students like Hayes and Mangskau from falling into such problems, the Legal Service opened a free walk-in lease review program in late August.
Twenty-two students brought in their leases to go over with professional staff during the week-long review program, Karon said.
The program enabled students to ask questions about the content of their lease and get help understanding the legal terms in the document.
Tenant organizer and housing attorney Saskia Harak said notice requirements and sub-leasing rules are parts of a lease that may be in especially confusing.
 Mangskau lamented that he and his roommates didn’t have the rules and requirements of their lease explained.
“It would definitely have helped if we would’ve gone to somebody who knew about contracts and have gone through the lease a little more.”