July report, part 2: Rental housing: city control and response

Housing issues in the 2nd Precinct  

MINNEAPOLIS HOUSING INSPECTION SERVICES — Daniel La Croix

Mr. La Croix began by stating that he appreciates the opportunity to explain residents’ rights.   His objective is to improve livability for all members of the community.

RENTAL PROPERTY —  Rental property in the city must conform to the Minneapolis Code of Ordinances.  Properties must be maintained in a way that will support dignified and safe residency.  

What steps and safeguards are in place if your rental unit doesn’t seem to meet a minimum standard?  Should you call for inspection?

  • Any renter whose dwelling unit exhibits low maintenance or poor maintenance, may call 311 to submit a service request (complaint) requesting  a housing inspector to address the issues.  The housing inspector has 3 days to respond to the renter.
  • Renter Protection:   A renter who submits a complaint may NOT be retaliated against.  
  • The Inspections Dept. has a team called the Rental Liaisons whose specialty is to handle any actions by a property owner that seem retaliatory.   This team will also connect the tenant with Legal Aid and with Homeline to Alternative Housing.
  • If the Inspector sees a clear violation of Code Standards, they will issue orders for a property owner or manager to correct  a violation.  The owner or manager has 30 days to complete the work for most violations.
  • If an owner fails to comply with the orders, several things may happen:
    • They can be cited for non-compliance.   If non-compliance continues for 90 days or involves $1000 worth of citations, the next step is:
    • The case can be sent to the Alternative Enforcement Team which starts a court action against the owner or property manager for non- compliance. 
    • A Hearing Officer would hear the case and set a new deadline for compliance. 

Poor Workmanship

If the Housing Inspector discovers a lower  level of non compliance such as  “poor workmanship”, there may be room for discussion.  Housing inspectors  require meeting minimum standards, and all work performed must  meet a (minimum) professional standard.  For example, if a section of cedar fencing was vandalized and couldn’t be reused, that part of the fencing must be replaced with professional skill, but not necessarily with cedar. 

Sometimes, owners can’t do the necessary repairs: Housing Inspections has a team, The Homeowner Navigator Team, which finds help for people who need to do repairs but who are having physical or financial difficulties (layoff, medical event, etc.), help for Veterans, help for Senior Citizens,  and other organizations to find the resources they need to get the work done on their property.   [EQ:  In the Second Precinct, we are lucky enough to have two resources not found in any other part of Minneapolis.  Southeast Seniors (22 Malcolm St. SE, Mpls MN 55414 or https://www.facebook.com/SESeniors/  ) and the East Side Neighborhood Services (1700 Second St. NE, Mpls MN 55413 or https://www.esns.org/ ) Both have resources for people who need various kinds of housing assistance.  Southeast Seniors only offers help to older residents of SE Minneapolis, as the name suggests.]

CONDUCT ON PREMISES:

 Minneapolis City Ordinance 244.2020  deals with many conduct issues.  Noisy party issues, drug possession, unlawful possession of a weapon, disorderly conduct and more are all under the umbrella of Conduct on Premises.  

If you suspect that a residence  is a problem property in any respect that’s covered by this Ordinance, that’s a time to tap your Crime Prevention Specialist and let them know there’s a property of concern.  Inspections will plan an approach with representatives from the MPD, and Regulatory Services.   Ultimately, it is the rental license owner’s responsibility to bring the tenants and property into compliance.  

Inspector La Croix had to leave for another meeting at that point, but his last expression was that meetings like 2-PAC and other community meetings are how things get fixed.   “Positivity is always around the corner when we put our minds together and act as a community.”

Penalties are spelled out including the penalties for failure  to comply with citations and how managers or owners may lose their rental license.  See: https://library.municode.com/search?stateId=23&clientId=3327&searchText=244.2020&contentTypeId=CODES

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

QQ — Under the umbrella list of on-premises behavior, how explicit is this policy regarding illegal discharge of firearms on premises and nearby in community ?

AA —  [Daniel] Illegal discharge of firearms would fall under State Law, which the City Attorney’s office would take care of for rental properties.  The Hennepin County Attorney’s office would take care of these types of issues on non rental properties.

Know that  before  taking this action,  the city has many tools for enforcement to gain compliance.  

Minnesota statutes  regarding public nuisance include 561.01 and 609.74.

  561.01 NUISANCE; ACTION.  Anything which is injurious to health, or indecent or offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use of property, so as to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property, is a nuisance. An action may be brought by any person whose property is injuriously affected or whose personal enjoyment is lessened by the nuisance, and by the judgment the nuisance may be enjoined or abated, as well as damages recovered.

609.74 PUBLIC NUISANCE. Whoever by an act or failure to perform a legal duty intentionally does any of the following is guilty of maintaining a public nuisance, which is a misdemeanor:

(1) maintains or permits a condition which unreasonably annoys, injures or endangers the safety, health, morals, comfort, or repose of any considerable number of members of the public; or

(2) interferes with, obstructs, or renders dangerous for passage, any public highway or right-of-way, or waters used by the public; or

(3) is guilty of any other act or omission declared by law to be a public nuisance and for which no sentence is specifically provided.

617.81 NUISANCE; ACTS CONSTITUTING; INJUNCTION; NOTICE.

[EQ:  I’m only going to put a summary here.   The full statute is at:  https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/617.81]

 When you are reading, notice that some actions are nuisances if only one incident occurs over a year, while others call for 2 or more incidents.   Actions include prostitution, gambling, sales, possession or gifts of various controlled substances,  unlawful use or possession of a dangerous weapon as defined in section 609.02, subdivision 6 and more.   There are also specifications involving the number of persons engaged in the behavior, with or without the landlord’s knowledge. Rules  prosecuting attorneys must follow are carefully laid out.

QQ  about the “tiering” of inspections of rental property
AA – viz the “tiering” system of problematic vs problem-free rental properties working — it’s been in place for several years.   [Emilie:   https://www2.minneapolismn.gov/business-services/licenses-permits-inspections/rental-licenses/tiering/   This is a tool that OCL is fully familiar with and uses often.]

QQ —  SE Como had a notorious landlord who rented after having her license revoked.  What does the city do in cases where the owner violates the need for a license and collects money on spaces held open for rent?

AA — The city may start enforcement actions against the owner of the property who doesn’t have a rental license as outlined in 244.1810 (a), copy  is below. The enforcement action may include but limited to,  violation letters issued,   citations being issued, or placarding and vacating the building. We would also work with the residents of the home, we would  provide them information on how to obtain legal representation against the landlord to have all their rent paid reimbursed to them during the time the building was unlicensed. The city in some cases may be able to help with relocation assistance, which then would be charged back to property owner for repayment. — bolding by EQ

244.1810. – License required. (a) No person shall allow any dwelling unit to be occupied, or let or offer to let to another any dwelling unit for occupancy, or charge, accept or retain rent for any dwelling unit unless the owner has a valid license, administrative registration, short term rental registration or provisional license under the terms of this article. The practice of pre-leasing new rental construction shall be exempt from the provisions of this section.

QQ –If an owner has a lot of administrative citations regarding code violations, what happens to these citations if the owner fails to address these?

AA — If the citations are unpaid they may be assessed to the County Taxes.

QQ — Thanks, Daniel, for your presentation. I’m curious about the data on complaints, especially, in the University District, e.g., the most common complaints, particularly problematic properties, etc. The OCL newsletter includes a nice summary of crime statistics and a summary of housing complaints would be interesting.

AA –The City is always trying to make the data easily available for residents. Here is a link to the “Data Source” web page. https://www.minneapolismn.gov/government/government-data/datasource/     Open the Housing and Development tab there are dashboards available that can be customized searches. 

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