Proposed ordinance must be applied fairly

The Minneapolis City Council will consider a proposal Friday that would make it easier to revoke problem landlords’ licenses. Being able to quickly shut down a property with dangerous conditions is necessary. However, the proposed ordinance could create a potential weapon for politically motivated officials or self-serving neighborhood associations.

Like driver’s and liquor licenses, rental licenses should be revocable when the holder abuses the privileges granted. If landlords fail to provide reasonably safe housing, the city should relieve them of responsibilities they cannot handle.

Currently, revocation can be difficult because a landlord can continuously break a code, fix it and then break it again. With housing inspectors stretched thin, it is difficult for them to crack down on properties with repeat violations. The proposal, Minneapolis Housing Inspections deputy director JoAnn Velde’s brainchild, would allow pulling a license after a landlord violates the same code for the same property a second time.

Although a rental unit is not inspected often, it is not too difficult for landlords to accrue repeat violations, especially if a property has bad tenants or is reported by aggressive neighborhood associations.

As such, revocation should be a serious matter for the city. Although license revocation can be appealed to the City Council, that would take much time, effort and perhaps even money for legal counsel.

Revocation should only occur where housing conditions become unsafe. It should be applied equally throughout Minneapolis and not just in the home wards of the two council members who offered the proposal.

Neighborhood associations in campus areas have historically used any tool available to them to limit the number of students sharing their campus neighborhoods. It is our fear, given the political climate, that the city might revoke licenses for infractions of nonessential regulations such as occupancy violations, which typically present little danger.

Minneapolis is right to hold landlords accountable for their transgressions. The city must, however, do so with safety in mind and not take advantage of recent tragedies to create ordinances that unfairly make life more difficult for students.