Minneapolis City Council candidate calls for increased fines for landlords
MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - In the wake of FOX 9 reports on a Minneapolis apartment with chronic problems with violent squatters, a city council candidate is calling for increased fines and more robust enforcement against landlords who repeatedly violate the city’s housing codes.
Figures provided by the City of Minneapolis indicate the Lonoke Apartments, which is located in Ward 6, was fined 18 times for various violations in a 13-year period, from June 2010 through March 13 of this year, for a total of $2,281 dollars. The average fine was $126.72 and the median was $100.
For Kayseh Magan, one of the candidates challenging incumbent Jamal Osman in November’s election, those figures are too low. In an interview with FOX 9, he pointed to media coverage of other buildings in Ward 6 to argue problems were widespread – in December, the Star Tribune reported on resident concerns about safety and sanitation at the Five15 on the Park apartments in Cedar Riverside, and in March, the Sahan Journal featured tenant frustrations with flow repairs following a flood at the East Village apartments in Minneapolis’ Elliot Park neighborhood.
"Clearly the fines are not having the intended effect that they're supposed to have. They're not leading the landlords to solve their violations that they're supposed to deal with. So, I am proposing that we have fines that actually have teeth," he said.
Magan also proposed the city attorney should play a role in the enforcement process by suing property owners with a track record of failing to resolve code violations. He added that just the fact that residents were reaching out to the media — as was the case with Lonoke Apartments — indicated there was a larger problem.
"Residents in Ward 6 have been reaching out to the media because they feel like maybe shaming these property owners or shaming our city government or city council member to do something might be a better alternative than the city's inspection department," he said.
Residents at Lonoke told FOX 9 they have seen improvements since FOX 9 first covered the story, with Beacon, the nonprofit that runs the building, hiring three-armed security guards.
In a statement, Osman’s office indicated the city had sent a crime prevention specialist and police officers to Lonoke, and that officers had issued six people with citations for trespassing and escorted them out.
He said his staff was working on a plan to address the problems experienced by residents in Lonoke and similar affordable housing buildings across the city, saying it could indeed involve higher fines and would involve the two departments charged with enforcing the rental property ordinance — The Department of Regulatory Services and the Health Department.
"Residents, particularly those from low-income communities, frequently live in rental homes that require repairs and other interventions to comply with local and state health and safety regulations. The Lonoke Apartment situation is a prime illustration," Osman wrote. "We are currently working to find a long-term solution to the issues tenants in the building are currently experiencing. These remedies could take the form of altered regulations or modifications to the way fines are enforced by the regulatory agencies."
Beacon has pledged to fix all the unresolved violations at the property by the end of the month.