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Apartments required to disclose hidden fees upfront

Minnesota lawmakers passed the largest housing bill in the state's history. One section requires landlords to disclose all nonoptional fees in all online ads.

MINNEAPOLIS — If you've ever rented, you may have encountered unanticipated fees deep within your lease agreement - costs that weren't advertised upfront. 

"We've seen more, what I would call abusive or predatory practices, in I'd say the last 10 years as this nationalization of larger landlords has evolved," said Larry McDonough, a senior attorney with the National Housing Law Project

McDonough is also a policy attorney for HOME Line, a nonprofit tenant advocacy organization that provides free legal advice to renters. The nonprofit has collected examples of nonoptional fees in Minnesota rental property lease agreements, ranging from a $25 monthly trash valet fee, a $15 monthly amenity fee, and a $100 administrative fee charged every January. 

McDonough says those small fees can add up - especially for renters who applied to an apartment they thought was within their price point, only to find out it's going to be more than they can afford. 

A new law passed in the 2023 legislative sessions would require landlords to disclose all nonoptional fees anywhere the apartment listing is advertised. The fees also need to be disclosed on the front page of each lease.

"That way there's clarity for a tenant before they even apply, of how much does this place actually cost," said Rachael Sterling, HOME Line policy attorney.

McDonough says it will prevent people from getting "suckered into a place they can't afford" with affordable-looking rent.

"That's a big deal," he said. 

The housing omnibus bill had a number of other law changes, ranging from major issues to ones that likely won't have a huge effect on most landlords or renters.

McDonough considers one of the biggest changes to be a requirement that landlords must provide a 14-day written notice to any tenant before filing an eviction case.

"I think it's actually good for both [parties] because in that cooling off period, it will probably generate a conversation between the landlord and tenant that might lead to a payment plan, it might lead to the tenant deciding that, I can't afford this place," McDonough said.

Apartments that allow pets can no longer require tenant pet owners to declaw them.

Lastly, landlords must commit to maintaining a minimum temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit from Oct. 1 to April 30. According to the law, the only exception is if "a utility company requires and instructs the heat to be reduced."

The Minnesota Multi Housing Association, which represents landlords and multi-housing owners across the state, opposed the omnibus bill and provided a statement: 

“Minnesota’s rental housing providers remain focused on maintaining safe and affordable housing for all Minnesotans," the statement read. "We are a state that has some of the most committed and invested local housing providers in the country. Their priority is to provide a great place to call home for every renter.”



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