City orders students out of over-occupied rental house

The students claim Eischens Management allowed six people to live in a house zoned for three residents.

Molly Moker

When a city housing inspector showed up at Ryan Flattery’s house Sept. 25, the University sophomore was eager to hear what she would say about the property’s condition.

But after a thorough inspection of the house at 1057 15th Ave. S.E., his eagerness turned to concern.

Flattery and his roommates waited a week to hear from their landlord, Jim Eischens, about the city’s findings and eventually called the city inspections office themselves for the results.

In addition to finding several violations the tenants said they repeatedly asked Eischens to fix, inspectors also deemed the house over-occupied and told three of the six roommates to move out before Oct. 25.

“There were six tenants living there, and the house is only zoned for three,” Minneapolis Housing Inspections Services deputy director JoAnn Velde said.

Eischens said he was unaware of over-occupancy in any of his rentals.

“We try to abide by the rules as best we can,” Eischens said. “If there’s over-occupancy, it’s not to my knowledge.”

Flattery said all six tenants paid rent separately to Eischens Management, which he said showed the company knew the house was over-occupied.

Eischens spokesman Pat Brink said this property was leased by a contractor – not Eischens directly – who no longer works for the company. Brink said Eischens Management often hires contractors to lease its properties.

But Barbara Boysen, legal assistant at the University Student Legal Service, said the over-occupancy comes as no surprise.

“I believe we are just starting to see the tip of the iceberg for these types of over-occupancy problems,” Boysen said. “It is our experience that (Eischens) has rented to over the legal limit of occupants on a number of occasions.”

Boysen said her files would show that Eischens and other area landlords encourage their tenants to over-occupy rental houses.

According to city inspections records for 1057 15th Ave. S.E., the property has been over-occupied several times in the past four years.

“I think there is a lot of over-occupancy, and landlords have to be aware of it because the information is right on the rental license,” Velde said.

“What concerns me is that landlords are saying ‘you can fill this house with as many people as you like, but only three of you can sign the lease,’ ” she said. “That should be a red flag for tenants to call (city inspectors).”

Boysen said Eischens has tried to circumvent over-occupancy regulations several times through the way he sets up his leases.

“It’s convenient for landlords to make it look like tenants invite the extra roommates in on their own by having some of them not sign a lease,” Boysen said. “He could also meet with a group and create two leases for the same property, so that on paper it looks okay.”

Flattery and roommate Randy Kins said Eischens was fully aware their house was over-occupied. Last May, Eischens Management told them all six could stay in the house but only three could sign the lease.

“We asked why, but (the secretary) just brushed it off,” Kins said. “It seemed like it was just a hoop you had to jump through, like it was no big deal.”

Because the house has six bedrooms, two kitchens and two bathrooms, Kins thought everything was normal, and all six moved into the house.

Kins said another indication Eischens knew about the over-occupancy is that he collects six separate rent payments from the tenants each month.

“He knowingly rented over-occupancy to these clients,” Boysen said. “He cannot claim ignorance of what the legal limits are because it’s shown on the rental license and he was also receiving six payments for rent from six different tenants.”

Velde also said Eischens knew about the problem, and she said according to the property’s rental license, only three nonrelated occupants can live there.

Velde said the city sent Eischens a letter Sept. 26 telling him the house had to be at legal occupancy by Oct. 25 or he will be fined $100 and could face legal action from the city and tenants.

Eischens said Friday he was still unaware of any over-occupancy in his properties.

Flattery and Kins said Saturday that Eischens still had not contacted them about the violations.

“If we wouldn’t have called ourselves, we probably still wouldn’t know that we had to move out,” Kins said.

Velde said the city will work with these tenants as they try to find different housing and will consider giving them extra time if necessary.

“The owner is in violation here, not the tenants,” Velde said. “The sad thing is, though, the tenants are the ones that live there. They are the ones immediately affected.”

“I don’t have time for this,” Flattery said. “I’m taking 19 credits and I work 20 hours a week. Now this is just another thing I have to think about.”

Brink said Eischens Management was also willing to help tenants relocate.

“Jim is willing to help them find another place in the area,” Brink said.

But Boysen said University Student Legal Service will help the tenants take legal actions – which could include getting out of their lease.

“These tenants should be able to vacate (the property),” Boysen said. “The entire lease is void based on an unlawful action.”