Worst landlords to see the most scrutiny

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Worst Minneapolis rentals to see most scrutiny from inspectors - The units with the worst records will be checked annually; clean records will prompt few visits.


by Steve Brandt, Star Tribune staff writer

 

As Minneapolis nears a day that always seemed beyond the horizon - the completion of inspections for every rental unit in the city - it’s gearing up a new inspection regimen that gives the worst rental properties the most scrutiny.

Twenty years after the city adopted rental licensing, the last backlogged inspections are being conducted. That will bring an end to the provisional licenses under which some buildings operated without inspections for the entire time.

New rental units with the worst records will be checked annually, while those with clean records may not get an inspector’s visit fort eight years. Tenants’ complaints will always get priority, however.

“ I’m just so pleased about this,” said City Council Member Don Samuels, who lives in an area pocketed with rental property. The new scheme was previewed before a council committee Monday but doesn’t need council approval.

The plan will be a bonus for responsible landlords by treating them commensurately with how they manage their property, Samuels said. It also will help tenants living in substandard units and give relief to neighbors of badly run property, he said.

JoAnn Velde, the city’s housing inspection director, said the most scrutiny will go to about 450 buildings. They rank highest on a city scale that assigns points according to their records for police calls and criminal activity, nuisance conditions, housing code violations, and cooperation with the city.

But close to three-fourths of rental buildings in the city likely won’t see an inspector for eight-year periods. About 5,000 properties in a middle tier will be on close to a five-year cycle.

Rental licensing began in 1991. When the Star Tribune checked at the program’s 10th year, only one-third of a then-estimated 75,000 rental units had been inspected. The pace sped up after new regulator officials created a revolving fund that used license fees and citation income to finance inspections. After a fire last April above a Lake Street bar that killed six people, supervision and scheduling for inspection of larger and mixed-used buildings was shifted from fire to regulatory officials.

The number of rental buildings in Minneapolis has grown by 17 percent since 2005, spurred by the surge of foreclosures in 2007. About 750 properties last year were converted to rental while an equal amount of rental properties changed hand, both of which trigger an inspection.

“ It’s essentially to target the worst landlords,” said Genevieve Gaboriault, a Legal Aid Society attorney who helped review the new plan as a member of the city’s rental licensing advisory board. “I think that this will help improve the quality of the rental stock, that’s really going to help our lower-income clients.” Representatives of property owners also gave input on the rules.

Star Tribune, March 1, 2011, Metro Section, p. 04b.

 

Comments: A professional inspections program would focus on the condition of buildings, not the owners of those buildings. Minneapolis, however, is targeting “the worst landlords”, knowing who they are even before they do the inspection of their properties. That is because the Minneapolis inspectors are seeking to punish people. Of the four criteria which the inspections director cited for determining who are the bad landlords, only one of them - housing code violations - has anything to do with protecting the health and safety of building residents, which is the supposed mission of the inspections department. Let the police police and the inspectors inspect - the city prefers to mix these functions. The “worst landlords”, targeted by inspections, are those who do not cooperate sufficiently with city officials. City government is preying on politically unconnected property owners.

Note: The writer's home was inspected pon the day before this article was published and was later condemned. It must be assumed that the city considered him to be among the "worst landlords".

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