Rental licensing standards strengthened

The City Council amended a section in the city's housing maintenance code Jan. 30, increasing restrictions for rental property owners who repeatedly violate rental-licensing standards.

Councilmembers Paul Zerby (2nd Ward) and Dan Niziolek (10th Ward) proposed the change, which strengthens the city's ability to punish repeat offenders. The new law is, in part, a reaction to a fatal rental fire near the University of Minnesota last year, which spurred rental-housing investigations.

The ordinance allows the city to consider revoking an offender's rental license sooner; previously, some landlords were able to find loopholes in the old system that allowed numerous warnings before license revocation could be explored.

Southwest rental-property owner Paul Kjornes sits on the Rental Dwelling License Board of Appeals (RDLBA), which addresses rental problems and license revocations. Kjornes, a Kingfield resident, said that before the code amendment, a landlord could receive up to three notices per year on one issue before the city could look at license revocation. He said some landlords would fix a problem, then have the same offense again, which would start the warning notice process all over again.

In City Council deliberations, Councilmember Dean Zimmerman (6th Ward), cautioned against the change, saying it is too restrictive for working landlords. He noted that some property owners experience a high rate of tenant turnover, which could be part of their reoccurring problems.

However, Kjornes said the code change shouldn't affect the average landlord since it is specifically targeted at repeat offenders who have not responded to a rental-licensing problem. He said repeat offenders are not very common. "I've never seen the same owner (come before the RDLBA) twice," he said.

In addition to the code amendment, the Council also directed city staff to develop a group to deal with repeat housing-code

violators and the rental-license ordinance. The group will include representatives from the rental industry, including tenant and landlord organizations, as well as neighborhood groups.

In other efforts, Minneapolis police CCP/SAFE teams are hosting workshops for Minneapolis rental-property owners, helping them understand their rights and responsibilities.

The next workshop is tentatively scheduled for March 20 at the Urban League, 2100 Plymouth Ave. N., however, time and registration information for the event is still pending.