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LEGAL ISSUES

   

MPRAC Executive Committee members met with Ken Hertz, the attorney handling our lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis. Mr. Hertz reported that he will be devoting much of his time to discovery procedures related to the case. He expects that the city will seek a summary judgment to dismiss our case. Evidence which we can now produce will help to prevent that.

Hertz asked that members of Minneapolis Property Owners Action Committee come forth with personal testimony or evidence to support the arguments made in our lawsuit. We previously requested such material from the members in a mailing of our newsletter. Our case has been continued to a later date, so we have some more time to prepare our case. Therefore, we think it helpful to repeat the earlier request, going into the issues in greater detail.

The types of situations that attorney Hertz wants to illustrate would be the following:

(1) Failure by city inspectors to enforce provisions of the city’s housing code that hold tenants responsible for certain maintenance problems while, in fact, the landlord is held responsible. For example, the city code holds tenants responsible for maintaining sanitary conditions to prevent cockroaches and for putting garbage in containers. Do you know of any situations where city inspectors cited landlords for problems that were the tenants’ responsibility?

(2) Condemnation of rental properties for lack of utilities that were the tenants’ responsibility to maintain: If, for instance, the tenant is responsible for paying the water bill and the water is shut off for lack of payment, city inspectors will sometimes condemn the building. Landlords, in effect, pay for the tenants’ lack of responsibility. Do you know of any such situations.

(3) Condemnation of boarded properties: Sometimes landlords voluntarily board up properties to prevent vandalism and other problems. City inspectors do not check to see whether the landlord has made repairs to correct code violations. They proceed to condemnation. Do you now of any such cases?

(4) Inspectors piggybacking upon another’s action to inflict penalties on the landlord that go beyond their legal authority: For instance, the health inspector can order a building vacated in the case of cockroach infestation. The Housing code allows housing inspectors to prevent reoccupation of vacant buildings until his or her orders have been satisfied. City code does not allow the housing inspector to cause the building to become vacant so that he can inflict the additional costs of non occupancy upon the landlord. Do you know of any such conspiracies between different types of inspectors?

(5) Improper training and direction for city inspectors: We are looking here for cases of incompetence or lack of knowledge on the part of city inspectors that would reflect upon the quality of their training.

(6) Lack of specific remedy: The city housing code requires that inspectors “specify the violation which exists and remedial action required.” Too often, inspectors fail to specify what action would be sufficient to correct the alleged violation. They make landlords do work over and over again. Do you know of such cases?

(7) Lack of equal enforcement: City inspectors enforce housing codes more stringently for private landlords than for nonprofits, public housing, and MCDA-owned properties. They require rental licenses for private landlords but not for the other kinds. Can you give examples of such inconsistency?

(8) Higher fees for appeals by landlords to the housing board of appeals: Landlords must pay $100 to appeal a case to the board of appeals while homeowners pay nothing. Yet, the procedures and resources necessary to resolve the disputes may be quite similar. Do you know of cases that illustrate this inconsistency?
As we said, ken Hertz wants specific examples of each unfair or illegal practice. He prefers that you write a brief description of the incident or situation - if possible, on a single page - giving as many relevant facts as possible. If you know of any situation fitting the above description, please send us a letter presenting the facts.

Send it to:

Mpls. Property Owners Action Committee
P.O. Box 80357
Minneapolis, MN 55408

Note: MPRAC started in 1994 with this lawsuit. However, the suit was dismissed by federal judge and the group turned to other activities.

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