Landlords with repeat housing violations may lose rental licenses

Until recently, the risk of landlords losing their licenses has been small.

Hank Long

A Minneapolis City Council committee approved a change to a housing ordinance Wednesday that allows the city to revoke a landlord’s license after a property has acquired repeat violations.

Housing Inspection Services deputy director JoAnn Velde said the change sends a strong message to landlords “who knowingly violate the same licensing standards.”

The City Council will vote on the ordinance change for final approval Jan. 30.

Second Ward City Council member Paul Zerby, who represents the University area, said he expects the council to approve it.

University Student Legal Service attorney Bill Dane said he supports the ordinance change.

“I think it allows the city to go to chronic offenders and say, ‘We really need you to start paying attention to these deadlines and if you don’t, there is a risk of losing your license,’ ” he said.

Until recently, the risk of landlords losing their licenses has been small, Dane said.

Attorneys James Bock and Pat Burns, who represent the University Concerned Landlords Association, said they do not support the ordinance because it unfairly targets landlords who have high tenant turnover.

The landlords association represents more than 3,000 housing units and 30 landlords in communities surrounding the University.

The lawyers also said the landlord association had almost no time to react to the proposed change in the ordinance.

“This was introduced on Dec. 29 when everybody was out of town and it was under the radar,” Bock said. “Now it can be zipped through the committee and council and nobody is going to find out about it.”

Bock said the change in the ordinance is only focused on over-occupancy issues.

Velde said she proposed the change to deal with repeat violators.

Bock referenced an e-mail forwarded to the landlord association in which Velde said “with the omission of the word ‘still’ we can hammer down on these illegal units.”

Bock said this is unfair to his clients who have already been cited by the city and are unknowingly cited again because of their tenants’ actions.

Dane said landlords who are cited by the city for violations of which they were unaware can take their cases to the city.

Dane said in his 18 years with the legal service, he has only seen one landlord lose a license.

Burns said the landlord association will bring its concerns to the City Council.

“When it comes to the full council, we will renew our objections to the fullest,” he said.