Politics and Government

Minneapolis gives renters more rights when signing pre-lease agreements for new buildings

A mayor signs an ordinance into law
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey signs into law an ordinance protecting the rights of renters who sign pre-leases on Monday.
Courtesy of Celeste Robinson

A new ordinance went into effect on Monday allowing Minneapolis renters to pull out of their pre-lease agreements or receive compensation if their new housing isn’t ready for them to move into.

This comes after more than 500 University of Minnesota students were displaced over the summer after signing pre-leasing contracts with Identity Dinkytown, which had delayed move-in into their apartment complex for a month or longer due to construction setbacks. Identity Dinkytown is located near the U’s Twin Cities campus.

The ordinance outlines three options a renter in a pre-leasing contract is entitled to if they experience move-in delays in a new building that “has not received a certificate of occupancy on or before the move-in date established in the lease agreement.” Those three options are alternate housing, money reimbursement or withdrawal from their contract.

This formalizes remedies renters at Identity Dinkytown were seeking after construction delays pushed move-in dates multiple times between August and September. Some students had to pay rent on an apartment they weren’t allowed to live in, and in exchange Identity Dinkytown offered them $150 a day or a hotel room and $80 a day. In most cases, it did not let renters break their pre-leases.

Identity Dinkytown’s management team declined to comment on the change.

Mayor Jacob Frey signed the rental ordinance at a press conference held in front of Identity Dinkytown on Monday. He said it’s unfair student renters had to continue paying rent for an apartment they had not moved into yet.

“To all the students that weren’t able to move into this particular spot, we’re sorry,” said Frey. “But we’re gonna make this change now so that this doesn’t happen again.”

Katie Smithberg is part of U of M’s Undergraduate Student Government and said Identity Dinkytown’s delays burdened students who had to miss out on social activities or spend more time commuting to campus during the fall semester.

“It took the courage of many students to speak out against the unfair practices that this management used for change to be made,” she said. 

A woman stands at a posium
Minneapolis City Council Member Robin Wonsley introduces community leaders to talk about working on an ordinance to protect the rights of renters who sign pre-leases on Monday.
Courtesy of Celeste Robinson

City Councilmember Robin Wonsley represents the eastern part of Minneapolis, including Dinkytown, and helped push the ordinance to its passage. She said it was in response to the “fiasco with Identity Dinkytown” and sends a message that students “do not have to continue to fall prey to predatory practices by property owners in the area.”

“We are absolutely excited today to make sure that, again, 500 students regardless where they live or any renter in the city never has to experience signing onto a lease, being promised a move-in time and then, at fault of the property developer, that does not come into fruition,” said Wonsley.

The pre-leasing ordinance went into effect immediately after Frey signed it.