HousingLink Blog

  • Resource: Southside Community Health Services

    by Josh Dye | Sep 28, 2017

    Southside Community Health Services (Southside) is a nonprofit community clinic that has provided primary health care services to under served people in the Twin Cities for nearly 50 years. Southside provides culturally competent medical, dental, vision, and behavioral health services to anyone in need, and never turns anyone away due to inability to pay.

    In addition to traditional clinical services, Southside has innovative programs, such as the mobile dental unit (they bring services to your site!), community garden program, and free health screenings at community settings.

    Services are provided in two south Minneapolis sites:

    • 324 East 35th Street, Minneapolis: Medical & Behavioral Health, 612-827-7181
    • 4243 4th Ave S, Minneapolis: Dental & Vision services, 612-822-9030 (dental), 612-821-2003 (vision)
  • How to Help a Renter in a Financial Crisis

    by Josh Dye | Jul 07, 2017

    The rental housing market has been an owner’s market since 2011, and sustained vacancy rates of less than 3% throughout the Twin Cities Metro Area are unprecedented. In addition to high occupancy rates, the majority of new construction is for luxury rental units affordable only to households earning a minimum of $60,000 per year. Although a strong apartment market is promising, it leaves some at-risk families struggling to retain their units as rents rise.

    One program in Anoka County (that also operates throughout all of MN) is working hard to educate owners on the services available to help renters who run into a financial crisis. The Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance Program (FHPAP) is a state program that is implemented through local county governments. In Anoka County, the FHPAP Committee is concerned about the squeeze on renters who are struggling to get by and living paycheck to paycheck. Many of these renters have barriers to financial success including poor credit, evictions, limited income, or criminal backgrounds.

    Starting earlier this year, a special project reached out to owners to request input on whether or not they were working with (or willing to rent to) individuals with some of these barriers.

    The work had the following goals:
    1. Raise awareness about financial supports that exist to help a struggling renter prevent an eviction

    2. Learn from owners directly about their concerns regarding renters with barriers

    3. Engage owners in helping to shape the community response to renters with barriers

    To achieve the first goal and raise awareness, a single phone number was created for struggling renters to receive assistance. In Anoka County, renters can call 763-324-1215, and they will be directed to the proper services. This single point of contact has made it possible for renters to easily access resources to help them avoid eviction.

    An online survey was utilized as the initial step in gathering information from owners regarding renters with barriers. The survey asked owners when they might consider making an exception to their rental selection criteria. Sixty percent (60%) of owners responded that they would need access to a financial guarantee of rent; additional security deposit; and regular, ongoing case management as the main resources in order to consider renters with more than one barrier in their background. In addition to this, the survey results show that 63% of the owners are willing to accept renters with vouchers similar to the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher as part of renting to households with barriers in their background.

    To engage owners in the community, a “Landlord Lunch & Learn” session was held in April. There were over fifty owners who attended the session, and several connections were made between owners and human services providers.Some feedback included: “Good mix of business topic and creative value,” “I would be interested in more information regarding legal matters of concern,” and  “I learned that this program was helpful for landlords and tenants.”  Nine owners indicated an interest in learning more about the committee and engaging in discussions to shape the community’s response to ending homelessness. Keep an eye on Anoka County to see the impact of this new engagement.

    Minnesota Housing funds 20 FHPAP programs that cover all 87 counties in Minnesota. Please reach out to your local community and get involved!

  • What would you do? A tenant's sister is sleeping in the parking lot...

    by Josh Dye | Oct 05, 2016

    A landlord approached HousingLink with the following dilemma:

    "The sister and boyfriend of a resident are sleeping in a car in the parking lot of our apartment complex. The resident is current on her rent, and complies with the lease. I contacted the local police department, but they said they can't do anything to help since it is private property and they have no jurisdiction. How should I handle this situation?"

    Here were some responses from landlords that subscribe to our Landlord Link newsletter.

    Jean's Response
    "I would treat them as my tenant's guests. Whether they can be on the premises, and for how long, would depend on the terms of my tenant's lease. First, I would remind my tenant of the applicable lease terms regarding guests, their number and duration, and, if allowed, adding guests to the lease. I would advise my tenant that the presence of these people anywhere on the premises invokes these guest provisions, whether or not they stay inside the tenant's apartment or use any of the tenant's other facilities.

    Second, if my tenant's guest allowances include free parking of the guests' car, I would allow their car to stay in the parking lot until the tenant's guest allowance is exhausted. If not, the car must be removed immediately. If free parking for guests is not allowed, but space is available, the car could stay - up to the limit of the overall guest policy - with payment of parking fees.

    Third, once the guest allowance is exhausted, the guests must leave the premises, unless the lease allows for additional tenants. If it does, and my tenant had requested that they be added, they qualify, and they pay the additional rent, they may stay.

    Finally, if the lease does not allow for additional tenants, or if any of the other additional tenant requirements do not occur, I would look to my tenant to remove the guests. If the guests do not leave, I would notify my tenant of a material breach of the lease and otherwise proceed with eviction. I would also call the police again about removing trespassers from my property."

    Carla's Response
    "I would first speak to the Resident that according to her signed MN lease line #28 (line #28 in the lease this landlord is using), she is responsible for her guests as well as the property of anyone visiting her.  

    Second, I would inform her that in the latter portion of line #36 of her lease (line #36 in the lease this landlord is using), that as a Resident, she agreed to respect the rights of other Residents, and all persons lawfully on the premises; emphasizing the fact that her guests are not lawfully allowed to park their car and/or stay in it, as it is private property.  

    Third, I would also call her attention to line #44 of her lease (line #44 in the lease this landlord is using) that further defines the parking directives; that parking spaces may be used by the Resident and Resident's guests for "parking"; and Management's ability "to tow away and store any vehicle at Residents or owners expense that are parked in spaces not so authorized by management."

    Last, I would point out that in line #44, the lease goes on to state (line #44 in the lease this landlord is using); "The Resident agrees to inform all guests of the parking rules for the apartment property." 

    I would then advise her that by her allowing her guests to do this that she is in violation of her lease and should the situation not be taken care of immediately, she will receive a written lease violation notice that will be placed in her permanent Resident file.  I would then close our conversation by informing her that any future lease violations may be cause to not renew her lease or could even potentially cause her eviction which would also put her future rental prospects at risk."

    (Note how Carla referenced her lease to state her case. This is a landlord best practice!)

    Lindsay's Response
    "I'd start by contacting local shelters to see if/what they can do. I'm sure that they've run across this type of situation before and maybe they can offer some solutions for you as a manager to help the homeless people in your lot.
     

    I'd then sit down with the resident of the apartment and let them know that the parking lot is an extension of their home and if someone ("a guest") of theirs is loitering it's there responsibility to tell them they need to move onto another home. This is a lease infraction and can jeopardize their residency with you (possibly non-renew them). 

    But if you can have something in your hand to try to help them find someplace suitable to live or contact information for a homeless shelter near by.  Then give them a date and time you'd need them to be out of your parking lot."

    Greg's Response
    "Post a sign in the lot that states parking is for resident's cars only. if they don't quit living in the lot, tell the current tenant that her sister and boyfriend are causing a lease violation, and give her a choice, they move on or she moves on.

    Mention the tightness of the rental market, and what an eviction will do to her chances of finding a new unit. If you post the sign in the lot, just have their car towed by the company that posts the property. Your lease should be able to force the tenant to make them go away, and if not, get a new lease."

    Michelle's Response
    "We would file a trespass order as they are not residents of the complex and are trespassing on private property."

    Miche's Response
    "I would speak with the tenant and let them know this is not safe. It does interfere with the quiet enjoyment of others. If everyone started sleeping in their cars, it would cause problems with noise, trash, others stopping to visit with them."

    Sherrie's Response
    "I don’t understand the landlord stating the police saying it’s not their jurisdiction and they won’t come on private property. The police come on private property all the time when there’s a complaint. The landlord should contact the police again, and speak with someone more knowledgeable."

    Bill's Response
    "Do you have no trespass signage up? If so, Anyone sleeping/ loitering/ standing on private property are subject to trespass, at least in the state of MN. These people have no right to entry whether their sister is current or not. The tenant rights do not transfer just because of a relationship. No one other than those on the lease agreement as members of the household have right of entry and can be trespassed.

     
    Ask them to leave and not return. Then have the police come and serve a trespass notice to these people. This will eliminate their ability to be on the property at any time. Explain to the sister that no one can sleep/loiter on the common areas of the property and that they've been trespassed."
  • Shannon's Story: What to do when a landlord won't make repairs

    by Josh Dye | Jul 25, 2016

    Shannon moved into her apartment three months ago, and now her refrigerator is broken and she noticed an unsafe level of mold around the baseboards. And there are 9 months left on her lease.

    She asked the landlord in writing to repair the refrigerator and take care of the mold problem. By law the landlord has 14 days after receiving the letter to make the repairs, but Shannon has heard nothing and seen no action.

    How frustrating!

    Shannon didn't know what to do, so she asked her friends over coffee how they would handle it.

    Beth, after taking a sip of her caramel macchiato said, "I would stop paying my rent until the $&%&$* landlord fixes the place!"

    Kathleen, enjoying espresso, chimed in, "I would move out. That will teach him a lesson!" #MovingOUT #BadLandlord

    Megan, after finishing her Irish coffee, offered, "I would take a bunch of pictures and post them on Instagram." #Mold #HateMyApartment

    Realizing that sometimes friends have the worst advice when it comes to a legal matter like renting an apartment, Shannon decided to see what MN Landlord Tenant Law says.

    She learned that the right decision was to file a Rent Escrow Action.

    "Who knew?!" Shannon exclaimed. "I am so glad I protected myself from making a huge mistake by taking the time to learn my rights. Had I followed Beth or Kathleen's advice, the landlord could have evicted me. What a nightmare!"

    Rent Escrow Action in short:

    1. Go to the courthouse where you live and file a rent escrow action. Deposit your full rent payment with the court.
    2. A court date is set 10 - 14 days after the money is deposited.
    3. Notify the landlord of the court date. If the cost of the repair is less than $15,000, the court will let the landlord know by mail (at the address the renter gave the court) the date. If the repair is more than $15,000, the renter has to physically hand the papers to the landlord at least 5 days but not more than 10 days before the court date.

    Ramsey County has a helpful rent escrow action guide here.

    Hennepin County tells you how to file a rent escrow action at the bottom of this page.

  • Same Tenant. Bed Bugs 3 Times! What Would You Do?

    by Josh Dye | Feb 05, 2016

    A landlord recently contacted HousingLink with this dilemma:

    "I have tenants that still have 6 months left on their lease. Since they moved in, bed bugs have infested the unit 3 times! This unit never had bed bugs before.

    Each time we used a professional pest control company to use heat treatment. The company also did a follow up inspection a month after to confirm it worked.

    I would like to avoid the expense and complication of eviction (and another bed bug problem), but still have the tenants move out before the lease is up. Here is what I am considering:

    A "cash for keys" arrangement where the tenancy is mutually terminated, and I give them their security deposit back plus $600 (their rent amount) to encourage them to find another place to live."

    Your turn! What would you do if you were this landlord? Here were some of your answers:

    "Add an addendum to the lease that limits the amount you pay for pest control."
    ~ J

    "It is probably not three separate problems, but failure to eradicate the bugs entirely. They are very difficult to get rid of, even with professional help. Sometimes using a month-to-month lease is the best way to go."
    ~ Raymond

    "I recently had bed bugs in one of my rentals so this hit home to me!  Here's how I handled it:

     In my lease it states that if a tenant brings bed bugs into the residence that they are responsible for removing them. I also have a clause in my lease that used furniture cannot be brought into the unit (I do make exceptions for furniture from relatives).

     
    So when my tenant reported potential bed bugs I found a place that would bring out a dog to verify the existence of bed bugs for $75.  My tenant paid for this. 
     
    The treatment was a little over $1,000 and my tenant doesn't have a lot of extra money.  My tenant suggested that he wait a month or two so he could save up and pay for the treatment.  
     
    Since this could spread I suggested the following:  I pay the $1,000 and my tenant pays me and= additional $333/month for the next 3 months and we get this taken care of immediately. My tenant was very happy with this arrangement.  We're in month 2 now and I have gotten 2/3 of my money back.  So far bed bug free!"
    ~Paul

    "Under the ‘cash for keys' proposal, there is no guarantee the tenants will move when mutually agreed upon, if they move at all. Also, ‘promises’ to move might go on for some time, and the tenants could still claim they’re entitled to their security deposit.
     
    However, if you think the tenants are trustworthy, draw up the agreement, covering all your bases.  Include a clause that states if they haven’t moved by the agreed upon date, they will not get their security deposit back, and no $600 incentive either."
    ~ Ben
  • When Should a Renter Pay an Application Fee?

    by Rick Galster | Sep 18, 2015

    Have you felt the pain of getting denied an apartment and losing out on application fees? This is common for renters with difficult criminal, credit, or rental histories. There are only 2 situations when you should submit an application and pay the fee:

    1. When you are 100% sure that you meet the landlord's rental criteria (income, credit, criminal, and rental history).
    2. When you have talked with the landlord about how you don't meet their criteria, but he or she is willing to make an exception for your specific situation.

    Only submit an application or pay the fee if you meet the landlord's rental criteria or they are willing to make an exception for your background. This will save you a lot of money when searching for a place to rent.

    In Minnesota, if a landlord charges an application fee they must provide their rental criteria in writing. Ask to see the criteria if they don't provide it. Make sure to know the following things about your background before you start searching for an apartment:

    • Your gross monthly income (before taxes are taken out). This is the number landlords use to determine if you meet their income requirements.
    • Your credit score. This is available through the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Trans Union, or Equifax for a fee. Credit Karma is a free service you can try.
    • Your criminal background. Know specifically what is on your record (felony, misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, etc.)
    • Your rental history. Rental history includes public records like evictions and what previous landlords say you were like as a renter (late rent, noise complaints, property damage, etc.)

    If your background meets the landlord's rental criteria, go ahead and apply! If not, tell the landlord which parts of the criteria you do not meet. Then explain how you are working to make things better, and why what happened in the past will not occur again. Ask the landlord if they will make an exception to their criteria and allow you to rent the apartment.

    Remain patient! If you have a bad background, it will take longer to find a landlord who will work with you. But make sure that you don't waste money on application fees in the process! Only apply if you meet the criteria OR the landlord is willing to work with your specific situation.

  • Changes to MN Domestic Violence Statute Impacts Landlords

    by Rick Galster | Sep 18, 2015

    Thanks to the Minnesota Multi Housing Association for this legislative update!

    The law originally passed in 2007 allowing victims of domestic abuse to terminate their leases in certain circumstances was significantly amended. The following changes became effective August 1st, 2014:

    Termination - Previous Law
    The tenancy terminates on the date specified in the written notice ONLY for the resident exercising rights under the statute. Others living in the unit continue with the tenancy according to the terms of the lease.

    Termination - New Law
    When any resident exercises termination rights under the statute, the entire tenancy terminates for ALL RESIDENTS in the rental unit. For sole residents, the tenancy terminates on the date specified in the required written notice. For multiple residents, the tenancy terminates at the end of the month OR the end of the rent interval in which one resident terminates the lease. A resident whose lease was terminated due to a co-resident terminating the lease under the law, may reapply to enter into a new lease.

    Payment - Previous Law
    The resident must pay an additional amount equal to one month's rent in order to receive the protections provided under the statute.

    Payment - New Law
    All residents forfeit all claims for the return of the security deposit under the new law. Even if there are multiple residents on the lease, the entire security deposit is forfeited. Residents remain responsible for the full month's rent in which the tenancy terminates, and for other amounts owed to management at the time the lease is terminated under the law, including delinquent and unpaid rents.

    Types of Victims Covered - Previous Law
    Only victims of domestic abuse are covered.

    Types of Victims Covered - New Law
    In addition to victims of domestic abuse, the new law covers victims of criminal sexual conduct and stalking.

    Documentation - Previous Law
    Only orders for protection or no contact orders are document permitted for use.


    Documentation - New Law
    In addition to orders for protection and no contact orders, writing produced and signed by court officials, law enforcement officials, and the following qualified third parties as defined by statute:

    • Licensed health care professionals
    • Domestic abuse advocates
    • Sexual assault counselors

    The statement by a qualified third party must attest to certain statements, and requires them to disclose their name, business address, and business telephone number.

    Written Notice - Previous Law
    Residents seeking statutory protection must provide written notice to management stating:

    • The tenant is imminently fearful of domestic abuse from a person named in a no contact order or order for protection
    • In order to avoid imminent domestic abuse, the tenant needs to terminate the tenancy.
    • The specific date the tenancy will terminate

    Written Notice - New Law
    In addition to the items required in the previous law above, the written notice must now include written instructions for the disposition of any remaining personal property in the rental unit, in accordance with the statute addressing resident's abandoned personal property. Management may request the name of the perpetrator if the resident is informed that the name is sought to protect other residents in the building. The resident may decline to provide the name of the perpetrator, and disclosure of the name cannot be a precondition of terminating the lease.

    The new law also provides a means for management to expedite an eviction action by dividing the lease and removing a resident engaging in domestic abuse, criminal sexual conduct, or stalking against another resident in the rental unit. Finally, under the new law, management is prohibited from evicting a resident solely on the basis of being a victim of domestic abuse, criminal sexual conduct, or stalking.

  • Destructive Renter...What YOU Would Do

    by User Not Found | Jan 09, 2014

    In the December edition of our Landlord Link e-newsletter (email jdye@housinglink.org to subscribe), HousingLink shared a story about a destructive renter and asked how our readers would handle the situation. Here were their answers (NOTE: The opinions expressed and shared are not endorsed by HousingLink.)


    John (Attorney): "I would have filed an order for protection action with the court to have this tenant immediately removed from the property, and at the same time I would have served the eviction action. Assuming the judge grants the order for protection (based on the facts of this situation), the tenant would get arrested on the spot if he came within so many blocks of the property. With the tenant out of the property the eviction would have went much better, and the landlord wold not have been blackmailed by the tenant to pay him money."


    Linda (Landlord): "Before renting to anyone, know the legal rights of both the landlord and renter. I have a duplex that I rent and knowing the laws is very helpful. Given the property damage and hotel expenses, the owners in this case would have spent less to evict him. I always take before and after pictures of my properties and date them. People often think they have to have an attorney for everything, but many things are simple enough. Take time to educate yourself on the in's and outs of property management."


    Diana (Code Enforcement Officer): "It is unfortunate when the law used to protect us is used by someone for harm and in violation of the lease they signed. It sounds like the owners of the home followed the law in an effort to have the roommate removed from the home. Taking the advice of the Police Department and leaving the home for the remainder of the roommates' tenancy was a wise choice. Personal safety and security is a top priority. A thorough background check and contacting rental references is a must when renting property. While there is a never a guarantee that you will have a good experience, previous evictions are a red flag."


    Leo (Landlord): "Sue the renter for the property damages. Start with small claims court and if that is not enough, go higher."


    Fran (Landlord): "I would try to put him in jail for destroying personal property."


    Sara (Landlord): "The state laws need to be changed to help people who have to live with this kind of behavior. Landlords are thought to be the bad guys. The only way to do anything about these situations is to work with state legislature. We need to make this kind of behavior illegal and punishable by law. What I see in these photographs is a crime. It is called constructive vandalism. If we had penalties attached to it people would not be inclined to do it. The man in the basement knew what he was doing because he has done this to others. With the way the laws are now he will continue to do it. It is his lifestyle and what he does for a living. It is actually how he makes his money. We can all work on getting this kind of thing a crime by working with state legislation. The cops will do nothing because there are not enough laws surrounding the subject. I know because I deal with this all of the time."


    Robert (Landlord): "Realizing the written/oral agreement needed to end, the following steps should been taken. 1. Write a termination letter to be given or placed in plan view for the tenant. This should include Your Name,address and signature are required as is the Tenant(s) name and property. Reason for termination in this case I would indicate month-to-month and any additional charges. Only because it was not a basement that could be legally rented for living making your lease unenforceable. 2. Hand deliver the termination letter to the unwanted Tenant(s) or post it on the door to his/her room or another area of plan view. Although move in occurred in July ending November 15th, I would have presented letter sometime in August between 15th and new month beginning. 3. Make copies of letters to get notarized by court administrator and have delivered by a third party.Such as a process server of sheriff. 4. Appear in court with supporting documentation ready for hearing. 5. After winning take the judgment to the sheriff and have the renter evicted."


    Rick (Landlord): "Under the lease for criminal activity (if you have one) press charges for destruction of private property. At housing court ask the Judge for an imminent eviction (no children) for breaking the lease as a result of criminal activity on the property. With a good judge he or she will give a 24 hour eviction as long as there are no children living in the unit. With no kids in the unit a seven day grace period is not required. I also recommend landlords conduct a thorough background check and refuse to rent to people without rental history. I once had a rental unit damaged when I went through an eviction process. My losses were $11,560."


    Robert: I saw this story when it originally aired on the news. I recognized this tenant's modus operandi and realized this was the same person who was renting a room from my mom when she passed away last May. I contacted the landlord in the story and confirmed that this was the same individual. After my mom died, he never paid any rent and refused to leave the property. We had to have the estate sale with him living there because he would not leave. At one point I offered him $600 to leave. He countered with $900. I told him to forget it, and had him served with an eviction. He would call me very politely begging to stay longer, and when I told him no, he would start swearing and screaming at me and tell me what a horrible person I was. He did not leave until the sheriff posted notice that they would be there within 24 hours to forcibly remove him. Later he left me a message asking if I could give him a good reference!


    Do you need to know the steps to evict a tenant? See the MN Eviction process here.

  • The Shadow Market Rent Ceiling

    by User Not Found | Jul 24, 2013

    For a number of quarters in Twin Cities Rental Revue we have tracked the impact of the shadow market on apartment rents. We have observed that in instances where apartment rents meet or exceed shadow market rents, apartment rents often appear to drop below those of the shadow market (hence, the "Shadow Market Ceiling"). This is merely an observation we have noticed a number of times. Subscribers can see examples of this in the 2013 Q2 Twin Cities Rental Revue in the following sub-regions:

    • Southwest Minneapolis (1, 2, & 3 BRs)
    • Downtown St Paul (1 & 2 BRs)
    • Apple Valley/Rosemount (3 BRs)
    • Bloomington (2 BRs)
    • Edina (2 BRs)
    • St Louis Park (1 BR)
    • Wayzata/Mound (1, 2, & 3 BRs)
    • Woodbury (1 & 2 BRs)

    On the flip side we have also seen a trend that when apartments are renting for significantly below the shadow market, there are often substantial increases in apartment rents. However, we have yet to see apartments rent above the shadow market in any sub-region (the ceiling!) for a length of time. Among other factors, evaluating the shadow market ceiling can inform where you set rents at your properties.

  • Apartments Now the Majority of Openings in the Twin Cities

    by User Not Found | Jul 24, 2013

    The passing of the 2nd quarter marks significant developments in the Twin Cities rental market . Most notably, apartments now represent the majority of openings. For perspective, consider that in the 2nd quarter of 2012 there were 6,800 apartment openings listed. In Q2 2013 there were 12,000. 

    Apartment & Shadow Market Openings: 2012 Q2 - 2103 Q2

    Apartment openings

    Despite this surge in openings, apartment rents still went up across the region. One-bedrooms were up 3%, two bedrooms 8%, and three bedrooms 4%. However, some sub-regions that have seen a lot of new construction, and had rents above the shadow market, did see a drop. One example is apartments in Uptown . We will continue to track rental market trends in our quarterly report, Twin Cities Rental Revue .