Landlords to pay for noise problems

Some landlords said they should not be responsible for their tenants’ behavior.

by Courtney Blanchard

A new ordinance that went into effect this month will allow Minneapolis police to fine landlords for their tenants’ noise violations.

The law is stirring discussion with some University-area landlords who say they shouldn’t be responsible for their tenants’ behavior.

“They’re asking me to be a policeman,” said Steven Schachtman, who has managed properties near campus for 38 years with Steven-Scott Management.

Schachtman said he went to the City Council and opposed the proposal before it passed. He said he doesn’t think the city can enforce it and that he won’t manage his buildings any differently than before the ordinance went into effect.

“This ordinance solves nothing,” he said.

Diane Hofstede is the City Council member for the 3rd Ward, which includes Dinkytown.

“I think it’s a combination of people who need to be respectful,” Hofstede said. “(And) landlords (who) need to screen tenants.”

Hofstede said the ordinance holds landlords accountable and requires property owners to be good managers.

Matt Howe, who manages properties in Dinkytown with his family’s business, G. Howe and Sons Rentals, said he agrees with the ordinance.

“I deal with (issues) at the front,” he said.

Howe screens his tenants and includes a stipulation in his leases about noise violations and other disturbances that allow him to deduct fines from tenants’ security deposits.

“It’s coming out of their pockets,” he said.

English senior Ryan Murphy lives on campus in The Melrose apartments, and said he’s had building security knock on his door with only a gentle warning. But Murphy, who is moving out in August, said that if landlords tacked a fine onto his rent, he probably would stop throwing parties altogether.

“It’s one of those things that, if it came out of my security deposit, I might not notice,” he said.

James De Sota, neighborhood coordinator for the Southeast Como Improvement Association, said he thinks the ordinance at least will get property owners’ attention.

He said noise violations are an issue in his neighborhood, and college students aren’t the only “obnoxious” tenants.

De Sota said landlords who receive a citation can erase it from the record by attending a rental management workshop held by the city, which he said “looks at different ways to run their property to satisfy everyone.”

The goal is to have landlords with a citation call police and work with the department to correct the problem, said Tim Richards, community attorney for the 2nd Precinct.

The department then will recommend such things as sending the tenants a warning letter or an eviction, and the severity is decided on a case-by-case basis, Richards said.

“Landlords hold the hammer over the students,” Richards said.

If a landlord continues to receive citations, his or her license could be revoked, he said, putting pressure on the landlords to address the problem.

After three occurrences of disorderly conduct on a property within a one-year period, the landlord can lose his or her license, said Carol Oosterhuis, crime prevention specialist for the 2nd Precinct. The occurrences aren’t limited to noise violations.

Jason Klohs, a landlord with property in Dinkytown and Southeast Como, said he agrees that landlords need to be responsible and the issue of noise should be addressed. But, he said, the fines should be given to the students and be large enough to discourage repeat offenses.

“I’ll just move in with all my renters and baby-sit them every Friday and Saturday night,” Klohs said.