‘Misled’ U of M students share painful housing stories with state senate

Distraught University of Minnesota students shared stories with the state legislature Wednesday about the struggles with an unfinished apartment complex.

State senators say affordable housing on college campuses is an issue across the state and problems like this can lead to dropouts and they wanted to hear painful stories from students.

The sound of construction isn’t unusual just off campus at the start of a University of Minnesota school year. But construction at Identity Dinkytown was supposed to be done.

More than 500 students planned to be living here, and they say property management gave them bad information over the summer.

"Every time I asked the leasing office, they told me it would all be okay," said Wajid Suliman.

Two lawsuits now claim the owners have misled students. Suliman is not one of the plaintiffs.

The suing students say the apartment’s owners knew they wouldn’t open on time, but collected rent on Aug. 1 anyway then sent notice the next day.

The company says their contractors only told them on Aug. 2 that it wouldn’t be done.

The Delaware-based corporation that owns the building offered residents two options: Stop paying rent and collect $150 a day for living expenses or keep paying and get placed in alternate housing, like a hotel, plus $80 a day.

In a letter to the Senate committee, lawyers for Identity said some students opted to keep paying rent. But there are questions about whether they’re legally allowed to collect rent.

FOX 9 checked with the city and the owners do not have a rental license, and they failed an inspection for temporary occupancy.

The dates for opening part of the building have changed a couple of times in the last month, so students tell me they’re unreliable, and they told the Senate committee it’s a stressful way to start the semester.

"It’s just a very unknown situation and students are just stuck with that because the school year started, and they’re just trying to get through the first couple weeks of school," said Siya Sakhardande, the University of Minnesota director of legislative affairs.

One of the lawsuits has a hearing scheduled for next week which could resolve whether the students should be let out of their leases.

State senators say they’re also looking for solutions.