Last week, hundreds of University students received a letter from the City of Minneapolis saying they might have to vacate their homes if their landlord didn’t pay his rental license fees.
This is the latest in a long line of issues students have had with Jim Eischens, a Twin Cities Housing and Realty landlord, and many said these sorts of occurrences are quite common and even expected from the landlord.
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The city’s letter concerned Eischens, who had not paid his annual rental license fees, which were due Oct. 1.
Eischens, who owns roughly 80 properties in southeast Minneapolis, which mainly house University students, was a month late in paying his license fees because of an apparent “clerical error” made by Housing Inspections Services of Minneapolis, preventing him from getting his bill notices on time.
The city did not document a change in a contact person for TCHR properties, so the notices were sent to the wrong person, said Joann Velde, deputy director of Housing Inspection Services.
An extension was given to TCHR to pay the fees by Nov. 27. If they didn’t comply, the city would have pursued further legal action with possible revocation of the licenses, resulting in students having to vacate their homes within 60 to 90 days, Velde said.
However, Eischens did comply and paid his fees on time, along with about $500 in penalties for 11 properties that did receive the bills.
“There’s not gonna be any kind of excuse; when they change an address they have to fill out a new application, and it’s been made very clear to their attorney now,” Velde said.
The notices were sent so tenants would be aware of the situation, in case further legal action was taken toward the landlord, she said.
Eischens did not return calls for comment.
Construction management junior Jake Lemirande lives in one of Eischens properties on 15th Avenue in Southeast Como. He said the notice was not surprising, considering that the landlord has never addressed any of their complaints.
Lemirande said he and his roommates have called TCHR about a broken air conditioner, a fridge that wasn’t working properly and a gas leak.
None of the issues were addressed.
“We left messages. (TCHR) always said they would fix it the next day and they didn’t,” he said. “We figured out where the leak was and fixed it ourselves.”
He said he won’t be living in the house next year.
Many other students share the same sentiment.
According to a 2004 Minnesota Student Association’s Renter’s Survey, when student tenants were asked whether they would recommend Eischens as a landlord to a friend, only nine out of 48 said yes.
In the same survey, when asked if they could get out of their rental agreement without any repercussions, 33 out of 48 said yes.
Eischens, who owned a house in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood which caught fire in September 2003 and killed three University students, has had over 1,400 code violations over the last 10 years, Velde said.
Leonard Paredes, a member of Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association, said 10 years is too long.
“Why has no one done anything?” he said. “He has that many violations and he is still renting.”
The University Legal Services gets more complaints on Eischens than any other landlord, said Bill Dane, staff attorney at Student Legal Services.
Out of 52 student complaints handled by the office since September 2003 regarding Eischen’s properties, 15 have come through the office in the last three months, Dane said.
Complaints included broken appliances, exposed live wires and leaking gas, he said.
The concern is with living conditions that are not safe, Dane said.
Despite the complaints, Eischens has not had any rental licenses revoked.
Velde said Eischens had one rental license almost taken in 1999 for a party house.
The revocation was not passed by the City Council because of a lack of evidence, she said.
The city needs two rental license revocations in order to revoke all of the landlord’s licenses. And so, at least according to city statutes, Eischens has no strikes against him.
Dane said one of the more serious complaints came in two weeks ago when one of Eischens properties that housed University students was temporarily condemned because of high levels of carbon monoxide.
He said Eischens not paying his rental license fees is “just another example of how Eischen’s has to have the city of Minneapolis manage all their properties for them.”