The owner of a Dinkytown apartment building that failed to open in time for tenants to move in is facing two lawsuits from renters who now want out and accuse CA Student Living in court documents of pulling a "bait-and-switch."
Construction of Identity Dinkytown, a six-story mixed-use complex on the site of the former McDonald's near campus, has been delayed for months. The apartment building bills itself as an amenity-rich experience and requires tenants to sign individual leases for multi-bedroom units.
The plaintiffs in both cases want to break their leases and recoup the rent they've paid so far. They're also seeking a reimbursement of attorney's fees.
Curt Trisko, a Twin Cities-based real estate lawyer, is representing three tenants looking to break their leases in one suit. Macy White, McKenna Nagy and Lilia Rosen paid at least $1,200 in August for their rooms in one unit on the fifth floor of the complex, according to court documents. His clients have declined to comment.
"We're reserving comment while the case is pending," Trisko said.
In the lawsuit he filed Aug. 18, Trisko's clients say they don't believe the building will be open before winter.
Shana Tomenes, a staff attorney at the University of Minnesota Student Legal Service, filed another suit on behalf of plaintiff Evelyn Benson, on Sept. 1.
University officials issued a statement Wednesday saying they've provided more than 100 students and their families with information or legal advice regarding the Identity Dinkytown apartments. Requests are still coming in, a spokesperson said.
"We believe there is a strong case for the student renters, which Shana [Tomenes] detailed in the complaint filed with the court," a spokesperson for Student Legal Services said.
Representatives for CA Student Living, the company that operates the Identity complex, declined a request for an interview. They did not answer questions about how close to completion the building is and whether it has passed inspections that would allow tenants to move in.
"We understand that the delay is disappointing and inconvenient for students," a spokesperson for CA Student Living said in a statement. "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 plaintiffs in both lawsuits claim Identity accepted their rent Aug. 1, one day before building managers told incoming residents their units wouldn't be ready for them by the original Aug. 27 opening date.
In a letter sent to renters, which was included in the legal complaints, Identity offered to pay tenants $150 per day if they found temporary housing or $80 per day if they allowed the company to pay for a hotel room during construction. Those payouts would be made in the form of a digital gift card.
In both cases, the plaintiffs say they believe much of the building will still be under construction once it's cleared to allow tenants inside. That's because Identity is still trying to qualify for a certificate of temporary occupancy, which only requires a building's essential functions, such as electrical systems, elevators, ventilation and plumbing, to be completely operational.
City of Minneapolis building inspectors have said this is typically their busiest time of year, which can mean longer waits as crews are nearly perfectly matched for the number of permits coming in.