Minneapolis renter's rights, lease agreements to be focus of ordinance change proposal

Following a new apartment project in Dinkytown not being ready in time for students, one Minneapolis City Council member says she plans to change city code that locks people into their apartment lease – even when the apartment isn’t ready.

Identity Dinkytown was supposed to open in August, but delays in its opening left many University of Minnesota students scrambling to find accommodations.

Several students have since filed lawsuits claiming the owners took their money, and held them to their lease – instead offering $150 a day for living expenses, or to continue paying rent and get placed in alternate housing, like a hotel, $80 a day stipend.

At a press conference Wednesday morning, council member Robin Wonsley announced her plans to give a notice of intent to introduce an ordinance that would amend the Minneapolis code, and amend provisions for pre-leasing units in new rental construction. The ordinance will be noticed during the Oct. 19 city council meeting, introduced on Nov. 2, and is expected to go to a full council vote by the end of the year. 

According to Wonsley, the ordinance would guarantee that any renter who signs a pre-lease has the right to exit the lease if the unit is not ready by the move-in date.

Identity was a wake-up call for many who had been ignoring the housing crisis in the University area," Wonsley said on Wednesday. "We heard loud and clear from Identity renters that this policy change would have made a huge difference for them. This is just the first step that we will be taking as a coalition to advance workers’ rights and renters’ rights."

Delaware-based corporation CA Student Living Dinkytown II, LLC owns the building, and has previously cited construction delays as the cause for its late opening.

However, FOX 9 previously spoke with six workers from the project who claimed they are owed thousands of dollars, and that construction is just one of the reasons for the delay in the project’s completion.

The top three floors of Identity Dinkytown have since opened to some of the more than 500 students with leases. The other three floors are expected to open later this month.

The University of Minnesota isn’t directly involved in the construction of the apartment, but students who need help can reach out to Student Legal Services, which helped file one of the lawsuits on behalf of a student.