Embattled landlord regains control over Mpls buildings, tenants rally for change

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Families are fighting for their homes and tenants are saying enough is enough as about 100 fear eviction in Minneapolis.

Blaming the landlords for poor living conditions, many of The Apartment Shop tenants now want to gain ownership the buildings so they can fix and clean them up themselves.

Others, however, have instead felt left between and rock and a hard place.

“We moved in October 1st, he was four months old.” Octavia Marberry told Fox 9.

It wasn’t until Marberry and her son Terrell Jr. settled into their place at the Apartment Shop on 22nd Ave. S that she learned she’d made a big mistake.

“A week into living here, I started seeing infestations, I started seeing mold,” she said.

When Marberry went to embattled landlord Stephen Frenz to request he break her lease, she was denied.

“He gave me a cat to get rid of the mice. He put my closet doors on track, but to this day they still come off track,” she said.

On top of the conditions, Marberry found herself without heat in January, when she had to rush Terrell Jr. to the hospital.

“He was super, extremely sick. He was in the hospital from January to the end of March and he almost passed away,”Marberry said.

Doctors even sent the two home with a letter to property managers saying that it was imperative Terrell Jr. be in healthy and safe housing - housing that includes heat and is rid of roaches and mold.

In December, the city banned Frenz from renting in Minneapolis for five years, but this week, a Hennepin County judge released his court-appointed administrator. 

“In effect, these buildings return into the control of Stephen Frenz, the original owner,” said Arianna Feldman, an organizer with United Renters for Justice. 

“The concern is that he could move to displace tenants,” Feldman continued.

Feldman and others rallied for Frenz’s five properties in the Corcoran neighborhood to become tenant-owned cooperatives instead.

In this case, Feldman said tenants would “be able to still pay a share and to rent, but instead that money would go towards all the needs that tenants would have.”

But while some say “don’t move, fight back,” as a single mother, Octavia Marberry remains conflicted.

“I want to move, but I don’t have the funds to move, nor can I afford to keep living in the conditions we’re living in,” she said.

Marberry said she’s still dealing with the same issues as when she first moved in – mice and roaches – and said she’s spent most of her time at her mother’s home instead.

“It hurts because my child don’t deserve this,” she said.

Fox 9 did reach out to the Apartment Shop and left a message for Stephen Frenz. He hasn't returned the call.

Meanwhile, organizers said this is just the beginning of their movement to win the co-op so tenants can have more control over how the rental properties are cared for.