Tenant rights event helps Mac students seek off-campus housing


Graphic by Zander Leong, ’26

Lucy Diaz, Features Editor

On Monday, Feb. 20, an event dubbed “Learn Your Tenant Rights” was hosted by the Macalester chapter of Young Democratic Socialists of America in Old Main. The event was open to all students, but those hosting appealed specifically to those who currently live off-campus or are looking to live off-campus during the next academic year. 

According to the event blurb in The Mac Daily, the event was designed to give students the tools necessary to enter a lease agreement with confidence, learn how to report and negotiate frequently found issues and understand signs of landlord abuse. 

The idea was conceived by two students, Taylor Sibthorp ’24 and Kingsley Hollon-Coleman ’24, in response to a lack of support for students transitioning to off campus housing. There is a lack of available on-campus housing for juniors and seniors, making it almost impossible to secure a spot on campus as an upperclassman. 

“There is some communication about how housing is only guaranteed for two years, but I found that many students weren’t prepared for that and were confused as to how they could pay for rent if the school was paying for their partial or full room-and-board on campus,” Sibthorp wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly. “It was painful to watch friends of mine struggle to try to make the numbers add up.”

The event was well-attended, though primarily by sophomore students looking to move off campus, with only a few upperclassmen making an appearance. Snacks were passed out before the bulk of the session began. 

The main topics covered were protections from the law, possible discrimination, security deposits, leases and maintenance requests. Throughout the event, possible issues were brought up, as well as tips on how to deal with them. 

One of the upperclassmen that attended, Noah Velick ’23, found the event to be particularly helpful after already having gone through the leasing process in the past. 

“When I signed my first lease, I had no idea what I was doing or what rights I had,” Velick wrote to The Mac Weekly. “I wanted to learn about what rights I had to negotiate lease conditions, what to do if a landlord doesn’t hold up their end of the lease, etc.”

Another attendee, Macie McIlvain ’25, attended the meeting in preparation for her first time living off campus next academic year. 

“I’m trying to get as much information about [renting] as I can — and this was a super informative meeting!” McIlvain wrote to The Mac Weekly. “It was well put together and had an edge of humor enough that I wasn’t falling asleep.” 

According to Sibthorp, the primary source of information that was referenced was the Minnesota State Law, with investigations into whether the Twin Cities have separate policies of note pertaining to the issues discussed. There were not many discrepancies of note. 

Subjects that were emphasized during the event were the importance of touring the house or apartment, along with reading the lease and protecting your own health. Radon is common in Minnesota basements, and many older homes in the area have lead paint, both of which can be detrimental to reproductive health and cause other health issues. 

According to Minnesota law, there are some protections available for tenants, but they are few and quite vague. For example, when it comes to conditions of the unit, the law states that landlords must keep it fit to live in and in reasonable condition. 

In terms of entry, the landlord or someone hired by the landlord may only enter for a “reasonable business purpose” and must provide notice except in cases of emergency, usually around 24 hours, which was recommended to be added to the lease in writing. 

To combat this ambiguous accountability, a Minnesota-based nonprofit tenant advocacy organization known as Homeline was referenced within the presentation for ideas about how tenant organizing can be beneficial and provide protections for tenants. Tips were also provided regarding ways to combat neglect, such as calling a City of St. Paul inspector or providing your landlord with a violation and time frame to fix it. 

“I have like four pages of notes of what we should do if we ever get into a tight spot with our landlord and what we shouldn’t do,” McIlvain wrote. “I would have liked to see more rights, but that’s a system problem and they pointed out where the gaps were and what people are trying to do to fix those gaps.” 

Coming out of the event, both the hosts and attendees felt that the experience had been worthwhile. 

“I feel more confident renting after attending,” Velick wrote. “In particular, it was great to learn about what to do if you need support or the landlord is being uncooperative, discriminatory, or neglectful (i.e. call a city inspector).” 

McIlvain echoed this sentiment. 

“I feel better going into renting knowing what rights I have and I am super glad I went,” she wrote. 

From the perspective of the hosts, Sibthorp was very pleased with the turnout to the event and the sophomore attendance, as this was the main group that the event was catered towards. 

It is my hope that once sophomores start renting they may be interested in […] getting involved with housing equity in the Twin Cities,” Sibthorp wrote. “We have some ideas, but need more people to bring their different experiences and ideas so we can serve the campus community better!”