Some U of M students suing after finding apartment building still under construction, fall semester begins Tuesday

Some U of M students suing after finding apartment building still under construction, fall semester begins Tuesday

Some U of M students suing after finding apartment building still under construction, fall semester begins Tuesday

‘Identity Dinkytown’ — a massive apartment complex on 15th Avenue near the University of Minnesota campus, is an active construction site.

It’s where Ellie Hanson and her roommate Leyna Donbrook thought they’d be living by now.

“On Aug. 2, they emailed us saying we don’t have a place to live because it’s not going to be built on time,” Hanson says.

“It’s just ridiculous,” Donbrook adds. “We’ve been talking to student legal services, and they said it’s the biggest joke. It’s very disappointing.”

The two University of Minnesota sophomores say they signed a lease in November 2022 — only to find themselves scrambling nine months later to find housing before the start of school — which they did.

“It’s like a complete shock to me but we’ll get through, we got a short-term lease,” Hanson says. “It’s not ideal because this is our first apartment.”

Now, the building’s Delaware-based landlord is being sued for an alleged ‘bait-and-switch’ scheme.

The lawsuit — filed on behalf of three student tenants — says ‘CA Student Living Dinkytown II, LLC — ‘has long known that the apartment would not be habitable in time for commencement of the leases, but concealed this information from tenants by claiming ignorance of the expected construction completion date when tenants inquired into it.’  

The complaint, filed Aug. 18 — goes on to say the landlord ‘deliberately waited until tenants paid their first month’s rent before informing them.’

Payment of the first month’s rent, the lawsuit says, was due on Aug. 1 — and that tenants were informed about the delay the very next day.

The complaint also says Identity Dinkytown has not received any official certificates of occupancy, which are required to house people in Minnesota.

“They assured my daughter, and they assured us, yes it would be done in plenty of time to move in the following August,” declared Kirsten Carrizales.

She says her daughter Amelia, a U of M junior, also had to scramble for housing.

Carrizales is not a party in the lawsuit but says she had checked in with the landlord for months — and she was constantly assured the building would be ready.

“Feeling lied to, and misled,” she says. “Just kept dragging it out and reassuring us everything’s fine, everything’s good.”

Identity Dinkytown is offering students unable to move in on their expected date $150-per-day gift cards and rent abatement — or $80-per-day gift cards and housing in a hotel.

After what’s happened, some students say they’re hoping to convince Minnesota lawmakers to approve stricter state oversight of rental agreements.

“The students at that time wanted to just get out of their leases, but the landlord just wasn’t looking to do that,” says Siya Sakhardande, a U of M Junior who lives in Dinkytown. “It’s really distracting that these students are displaced right before the start of the school year when it’s really crazy and they’re trying to figure out their classes and extracurriculars.”

Minneapolis City Council member Robin Wonsley says the city’s role with student housing involves inspections for permits and to ensure that buildings are up to code.

She adds she’s hoping to discuss the idea of some city ground rules about student leases.

“These pre-signed leases that students are often targeted with, are also being used as a predatory practice,” Wonsley says. “Now students are locked into a lease, and they can’t even live in the unit that the lease is attached to.”

Identity Dinkytown says it’s not commenting on the lawsuit.

But a spokesperson Saturday issued a statement, which says in part:

“We understand that the delay is disappointing and inconvenient for students. We want students’ experience with Identity Dinkytown to be seamless and this isn’t how we wanted to start our journey together. We are focused on getting doors opened and students moved in as quickly as possible and providing students with regular updates until then.”

The landlord is not saying when that will happen.

Hanson and Donbrook say Identity Dinkytown has refused to let them out of their lease.

“They aren’t charging us until we’re ready to move in, but as soon as we’re ready to move in, they’re going to start charging us normal price,” Donbrook notes.

The students say they’ll have to pay rent for 90 days before they can get out of their lease.

An unexpected expense, they add, for two first-time apartment dwellers. “So technically, we both have two leases,” Hanson says. “We’ve never signed a lease before, and we were just eighteen, now we’re nineteen, but they kind of trapped us into this situation. It’s just affecting our college experience and our ability and so much chaos and unknown.”