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Renting

“Where should I live?”

When trying to find a place to live that’s a good fit, focus on location, safety, responsibilities and accommodations:

  • How long does it take to travel to campus?
  • Are bus stops nearby?
  • Is there parking?
  • What amenities (gas stations, groceries stores, laundromats, restaurants) are in the area?
  • Like it quiet? Choose non-college area neighborhoods.
  • Prefer to socialize? Consider areas made up of college housing.

It’s about safety. To make a place a home, it’s important to feel safe and comfortable there day and night. Questions to consider:

  • Are windows in good condition and lockable?
  • Are there smoke/carbon monoxide detectors?
  • If there is a security system, does it work?
  • Is there more than one fire exit?
  • Is the area well-lit?
  • Who has access to the house key?
  • When were locks last changed?

It’s about whose responsible. Landlords are responsible for certain housing basics such safe electrical systems, emergency exits and working restrooms, to name a few. In some cases, the tenant may be responsible for items, such as heat. It’s important to ensure whose responsible for what is clearly stated in the lease. Tenants should also be aware that they cannot make paper or paint the walls, resurface the floors, dismantle or install permanent fixtures, alter woodwork or carpet, or make other changes without the landlord’s permission.

If the apartment or house has something that needs to be fixed, inform the landlord. If an issue doesn’t get resolved, contact city staff at 311 or 507-387-8600.

It’s about accommodations. Some good questions to ask about whether or not a rental can accommodate and meet expectations are:

  • Is sufficient parking available and is the lot well lit?
  • Is garbage and recycling provided on-site?
  • Is the rental unit in good shape and clean? How old is it?
  • Are laundry facilities provided?
  • Are furnishings (couch, table, for example) provided?
  • Are appliances working?
  • Will furniture fit in the doorways?
  • Are pets allowed?
  • Is plumbing adequate?
  • Is there enough storage?
  • Does sound travel through the walls?

Help is available. Work with a local management company to find a place that’s a good fit. Listings are available in the yellow pages or online.

Budget

When looking for a place to live, make sure to find out how much the rent is and when the rent is due. It’s important to be able to afford rent because once the lease is signed, you’re obligated to pay the rent each month. It’s recommended that rent is no more than 30 percent of your income.

A budget worksheet can help plan your income and expenses.

Leases, rental rules and rights

Be informed about lease information, rental rules and your rights because it can help make the rental process easier. There are two kinds of leases:

Periodic tenancy–lease length is not determined. The rental period runs from one rent payment to the next.

Definite term–the lease states the length of the lease. Terms longer than one year needs to be in writing. At the end of the term, if the agreement isn’t terminated or an extension isn’t offered, under state law the lease continues month to month.

Read the lease. Before signing a lease, understand its terms and requirements. Leases are binding, once signed, there’s no going back. Make sure the following is included in the lease:

  • rent amount
  • length of rental period
  • security deposit amount and return date
  • who is responsible for repairs
  • who is responsible for utilities, electric and cable–the landlord or the tenant

Leases are legally binding. Building or buying a home, changing jobs, or health issues that require relocating does not provide tenants the legal right to get out of the lease.

Check the rental license. All housing rentals in Mankato need to be licensed to make sure living quarters are safe and not over occupied. Occupancy limits are determined by city zoning and rental codes. The city of Mankato may request a roster of tenants from the landlord. An example of when not to rent a place: if a bedroom doesn’t have a window, it’s most likely not a bedroom.

To find out if a rental is licensed or has been cited, or to learn occupancy limits contact city staff at 311 or 507-387-8600.

Know what happens if a roommate moves out. Understand who is responsible for rent should a roommate move out before the end of a lease term. Many times if a roommate moves out, remaining tenants could be responsible for that person’s rent.

Consider rental insurance. Insurance can protect your property should something happen. Please note that should there be a fire or flood, the owner’s property insurance will cover the building, but will not cover your personal belongings in the apartment. Check with your insurance company to see what plan works best for you.

If there are questions about a lease, seek legal advice from campus student legal services.

 

 

Know the rental strike process. Strikes are applied to licensed rentals that are cited for a violation such as a party/disturbance, weeds, or a nuisance. Strikes remain on a rental license for up to 12 months. Building owners are notified when each strike occurs and are sent a copy of the strike notice and police report.

After two strikes within a 12-month period, a problem-solving conference is held between the building owner, tenant and police commander.  The goal is to develop an action plan to avoid future strikes. If a rental receives a third strike, the Mankato City Council reviews the rental license and decides whether to suspend or revoke it.

Avoid being scammed. If a rental scam is suspected, contact police at 911.

Know your rights as a renter. Renters have certain rights that they should be aware of, such as when a landlord or other authorized person can enter their apartment or home:

  • Reasonable business purposes, such as showing the room to prospective tenants, buyers, state and local officials.
  • Checking on tenants who may be causing a disturbance or violating the lease.
  • Reviewing the unit when tenant has moved.
  • To provide emergency maintenance. This does not require prior notice, but a note must be left explaining what happened.
  • Non-emergency maintenance items require 24 to 48 hour notice.
  • Notice is not required when checking on resident safety or to prevent injury to property or people over maintenance, security, or law enforcement concerns.
  • Tenants may not be evicted for “good faith” attempts to enforce tenant rights.

Consider taking a tenant education course to learn more about the rental process.

For information about tenant rights and responsibilities call 311 or 507-387-8600.

Keep it clean

Make sure to keep the property in good shape can help prevent warnings and citations.

Keep property clutter free. Pick up and dispose of litter quickly and make sure yards are clean and in good condition.

Use the right furniture. That well-used couch may be loved, but “indoor” furniture has to stay indoors. Use outside furniture, such as patio chairs.

Tip: Avoid bringing used furniture into the apartment because sure they do not have bedbugs. Bedbugs spread easily and are expensive to remove. If concerned about bedbugs or other infestation, contact the landlord immediately.

Keep the lawn mowed. Mow the lawn unless it’s agreed that the landlord handles these tasks. Grass and weeds more than 12 inches high violate city code. A $60 administrative fee will be charged to the responsiblity party if lawns are cited for being unmowed. An additional $60 fee plus the mowing cost is added if the city of Mankato has a contractor mow the property.

Shovel the sidewalks. Clear snow and ice off sidewalks within 24 hours after snow stops falling. If a sidewalk is seen unshoveled, contact city staff at 311 or 507-387-8600.

Place garbage cans and recycling bins in the right place. Garbage cans and recycling bins should be inside or along the side of the house except for pick-up day. Make sure garbage and recycling is picked up by placing bins curbside the night (after 6 p.m.) before scheduled pick up. Remove bins by noon the day after collection.

Parties

“I’m having a party. What do I need to do?” Knowing the rules about alcohol and what to do before, during and after the party can help prevent unwanted attention from neighbors and the police.

Before the party

Make a plan. How many people are being invited? How long will the party last? Will alcohol be served? Can someone watch for minors? Will music be at the party? Who’s going to clean up?

Inform. Let neighbors know the party is being held and be open to any of their questions or concerns. Share your contact information with neighbors so they call with any questions or concerns before they call 911.

Have more questions about parties? Contact staff at 507-387-8780.

During the party

Keep an eye on things. Is the noise too loud? Did the party get too big? Is street parking becoming an issue? Are guests misbehaving?

Know who’s at the party. Control people who get to come to the party. Hosts are responsible for everyone who walks through the door, whether they know them or not.

Be aware of the noise ordinance. When noise gets too loud, police may show up and a citation may be issued. If that happens, a strike will be made against the property and the landlord will be notified. When a property has three strikes, the rental license may be suspended, which could mean finding a new place to live.

Be aware of the social host ordinance. Mankato has a social ordinance that makes it unlawful for any person to host or allow a gathering where alcoholic beverages are present. When the person knows, or should reasonably know, that an underage person consumes any alcoholic beverage it’s a violation of city ordinance and will result in criminal charges for all renters.

After the party

Safety first. Use designated drivers, taxi cabs, or Mankato’s Late Night Express to help people arrive to their destination safely.

Quiet everyone. Many neighbors are probably sleeping. As guests to leave, ask them to be quiet as they head out into the neighborhood.

Clean-up. Clear your yard and neighbors’ yards of any trash before calling it a night.