Housing 101

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August 16, 2004 // UPDATED 3:22 pm - April 25, 2007
By: sue rich
sue rich

Resources for homeowners, renters and landlords

If you printed all the housing-related tips, rules and regulations in the state of Minnesota and then laid them end-to-end, surely they would paper the state. And much of it would seem undecipherable to the layperson -- especially if they're caught up in the chaos of struggling with a questionable realtor, landlord, tenant or contractor.

Luckily, there are many advocates and experts willing to decode this information for free or for a small fee. The non-profit and state agencies listed here provide information or referrals on a wide variety of housing-related issues.

- Minnesota Attorney General's Office, 651-296-3353, www.ag.state.mn.us

Offers citizens useful information on just about every housing topic imaginable. Guides covering landlords' and tenants' rights and responsibilities; buying, building, selling or remodeling a home as well as consumer-awareness fact sheets (on such things as how to identify predatory lenders) are available online or can be ordered for free over the phone.

- City of Minneapolis, Housing Services Office, Public Service Center, 250 S. 4th St., Room 110, 673-3003 ci.minneapolis.mn.us/dhfs/advocates/housing_home.asp

Provides free information to landlords and tenants on: lockouts, notice to vacate, evictions/unlawful detainers, leases, repair issues, rent escrow, damage deposit return, proper notice, roommate problems, unlawful occupancy, condemnations, emergency tenant issues, right to privacy, tenant screening, return of property, retaliation and abandonment.

On-hand housing advocates can also help prepare for housing and conciliation court, provide workshops on rental rights and help direct people to the right city department or community resource.

- United Way First Call for Help, Dial 2-1-1 or 651-291-0211, www.firstcallnet.org

Operators with this service have extensive referral lists and resources at their fingertips to connect callers to the closest agency that can help them best.Their database is also accessible on their Web site.

- Housing Resource Center, 2414 Park Ave. S., 879-5266, www.gmhctc.org

This Greater Metropolitan Housing Corporation of the Twin Cities program aims to preserve, improve and increase affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families, as well as assist communities with housing revitalization.

The Housing Resource Center provides no-cost information on buying your first home, home maintenance and safety, home improvement financing, energy assistance programs, mortgage foreclosure prevention and also offers some rental-related assistance.

The center also helps homeowners access home improvement loans and then works with them through the process, including providing free construction consultations to help homeowners wade through codes, permits and contractor bids, proposals and estimates.

- Minnesota Tenants Union, 871-7485, 1-900-225-8888, www.solutionsfund.org/Members/individualmembers/mntenants.htm

Offers counseling and advocacy to tenants who are having problems with their landlords; covers a wide variety of issues. (Note: you must pay $1.99 per minute for this service.)

- MHA Renters' Hotline, 952-858-8222, www.mmha.com

The Minnesota Multi Housing Association (MHA) established this automated hotline for renters to find answers to common questions on subjects such as security deposits, leases, Certificates of Rent Paid, repairs and maintenance, cleaning and giving notice to vacate.

- Minnesota Department of Human Rights, 1-800-657-3704, www.humanrights.state.mn.us

Whether you rent or own, if you think you've been a victim of discrimination -- that you were turned down for a loan or that repairs were delayed due to your sex, color, religion, familial status (being married and/or having kids), receipt of public assistance, sexual orientation, disability, national origin or creed -- this state department can help.

- Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis, (Downtown office, for new clients), 430 1st Ave. N., Ste. 300, 332-1441, www.midmnlegal.org

Provides free civil legal services to low income and senior residents of Hennepin County.

Clients who live in public or subsidized (Section 8) housing, as well as non-subsidized and private housing, can get assistance from Legal Aid's Housing Team with issues involving evictions, property repairs, rent calculations, utilities and termination from subsidy programs.

- Minneapolis Mediation Program, 310 E. 38th St., Ste. 221, 822-9883, www.mplsmediationprogram.org

Those with a landlord/tenant dispute who are looking for an alternative to a lengthy court process may want to consider low-cost mediation. The Minneapolis Mediation Program helps landlords and tenants work through problems and develop a solution together.

Frequently mediated issues include: repairs, parking, security/safety, noise, heat, harassment and non-payment.

Sources: Agency Web sites