MINNEAPOLIS — Some students at the University of Minnesota say an out-of-state landlord misled them with what they call a bait-and-switch scheme.
They paid rent to live at Identity Dinkytown in Minneapolis, which sits on the site of the old McDonald's restaurant. The semester has started, but the building is still under construction.
They've asked for refunds and lease terminations, but to no avail.
On Wednesday, an informational hearing was held with the Minnesota Senate Higher Education Committee.
"The most common sentiment I hear in my office is the feeling of being deceived, and the feeling of feeling stuck or that they're being held captive," said Shana Tomenes, staff attorney at the University of Minnesota Student Legal Service.
Siya Sakhardande, with the University of Minnesota Undergraduate Student Government, said each student has seemingly been told a different date they can move in.
"I've heard so many different dates at this point that I just think that what I've been hearing is that it just is a very unknown situation," Sakhardande said.
A spokesperson with CA Management Services, which owns and operates Identity Dinkytown, tells WCCO they've offered a daily $150 gift card for those who find their own housing in the meantime, and an $80 gift card for accepting the company's housing options.
Tianna Helgeson, a third-year student at the U, said her alternative option for housing, provided by the company, was a hotel across the river from campus.
A CA Management Services spokespeson sent WCCO this statement:
We cannot comment on any pending litigation. We understand that the delay is disappointing and inconvenient for students. We want each student's experience with Identity Dinkytown to be seamless and this isn't how we wanted to start our journey together. While unavoidable construction delays have impacted anticipated move-in dates, we are working directly with the contractor who has assured us they are doing everything they can to complete the remaining construction as quickly as possible. We are hopeful to have students moving in by the end of the month. In the meantime, we are committed to transparency and will provide students with regular updates until then.
At Wednesday's hearing, students say it's been tough being without the housing they are paying for.
"Being off-campus makes me think I'm missing out on a big part of my life, and living at home has been extremely lonely," said student tenant Wajid Suliman.
Students said communication with those at the apartment complex has been limited.
"The construction delay [and] the limited communication from Identity has had a very negative impact on the start of my school year," said student tenant Aria Mahan-Cleveland. "I have to spend a great amount of time on the road commuting to and from classes instead of using my time to study."
Lawmakers say CA was invited to Wednesday's meeting, but declined. DFL Sen. Lindsay Port says she hopes to restore the balance in landlord and tenant laws in the next session.
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