Reprieve for Minneapolis tenants as legal battle continues

More than 100 families were caught in the middle of a legal battle between their landlords and authorities who revoked their licenses. 

Attorney Michael Cockson with Faegre Baker Daniels said his firm's housing advocacy team has been fighting pro bono for tenants on two fronts recently. 

“I think if we hadn’t stepped in, they would have to be vacated almost immediately,” Cockson said. 

The first case being fought was for people who lived in buildings owned by a company called Misco Holdings. The Hennepin County Housing Court ruled that Misco Holdings was illegally operating buildings without a license. 

The owner of Misco Holdings claimed to have purchased five buildings earlier this fall from the previous owners of the properties--Stephen Frenz and Spiro Zorbolas. Both Frenz and Zorbolas had been banned from owning rental properties in Minneapolis.

The court found that because Frenz and Zorbolas still had financial stakes in the buildings, Misco could not legally hold the licenses. 

“What makes it remarkable is the scope of the deception,” Cockson said. “And the scope of the safety and habitability issues that have been unleashed on the tenants.” 

The court ordered Misco Holdings to pay back the tenants three months’ rent, a total of $150,000. 

In a separate case, tenants at 42 properties owned by Mahmood Khan faced being displaced.

Khan exhausted his final round of legal appeals earlier in December. 

Fox 9 first reported in January 2016 that the city moved to strip Khan of his rental license after he racked up more than 1,000 code violations in two years. 

In both cases, an administrator was appointed to maintain the buildings temporarily and keep the tenants from being homeless. 

“We’re hoping that what this does is really pushes all of the landlords in the city of Minneapolis to make sure they continue to follow the rules,” Cockson said. “And to make sure the health and safety of their tenants are maintained.”

Khan did not return a call for comment. Last year he told Fox 9 that he provides a needed service for low-income tenants and that the city was out to get him. 

Misco and Stephen Frenz still have legal appeals pending, but their tenants should be able to stay in the buildings for the next several months.