U-area landlords band together

by Eric Swanson

A group of University-area landlords has started an organization to combat what they see as unfair discrimination.

The University Concerned Landlords Association is a group of between 25 and 50 property owners who believe they are being wrongly targeted by city and neighborhood officials, according to the association’s lawyers.

Patrick Burns, one of the association’s attorneys, said the city neighborhood officials “try to harass landlords by going after minor violations.”

Neighborhood leaders denied discriminating against landlords, but they did – along with students – express some optimism about the new association’s potential to improve communication.

Landlords participating in the group declined to speak because they fear retaliation from city and neighborhood groups. They deferred questions about the association to its lawyers.

Burns said neighborhood associations are using violations unrelated to safety to create problems for landlords, which will inevitably raise costs for landlords and student-renters.

“There was a fire where three students died,” Burns said. “Some people blame the landlords when, in fact, it wasn’t the landlord’s fault.”

According to Minneapolis city code, housing violations could be a piece of trash in the yard or too many cars in the driveway.

“Safety has nothing to do with the zoning and code violation laws,” Burns said. “We need to construct a positive plan to bring about change in the city’s zoning ordinances and the attitude toward landowners.”

At the group’s first meeting, members elected officers and created bylaws. Burns declined to release the list of officers or bylaws and could not elaborate on the association’s plans.

Minneapolis City Council member Paul Zerby, 2nd Ward, said he believes the group will not be helpful if its membership remains cloaked.

City and neighborhood association officials said they knew little or nothing about the landlord association.

Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association members said they do what is necessary to help uphold city laws, but they have never tried to target landlords or student-renters.

Southeast Como Improvement Association member Bill Dane said he heard the group is trying to represent student rights, but he knew few details.

“It is the first time I have heard of landlords concerned for the rights of students,” Dane said. “Maybe something good could come out of that group.”