The city of West St. Paul must reinstate the rental license of a landlord after it was revoked for what the city deemed an excessive number of police calls at one of his apartment buildings, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Monday.
As a result of the court decision, dozens of tenants — many of them low-income or disabled — learned they may stay in their homes and will not have to move in a few weeks after all.
Last September, property owner Greg Mailand lost his rental license after the police department logged 27 calls to the 30-unit building over a one-year period.
The high volume of calls not only strained the police department’s resources but it violated city ordinance, city officials said. Tenants were told they had until July 1 to find a new place to live.
But a three-judge panel, including presiding Judge Michael Kirk, ruled Monday that the city failed to prove that Mailand’s management of the residence at 1492 Charlton St. had broken city rules, nor did the city show that Mailand’s management created an environment where it was necessary to repeatedly call police.
The judges’ unpublished opinion also said there was insufficient evidence that Mailand legally could have done anything differently to avoid burdening the city.
Bradley Kletscher, Mailand’s attorney, said his client was pleased with the decision. “He’s excited that the tenants who are living there can continue to live there,” Kletscher said. “I think it’s a victory for all tenants.”
West St. Paul city officials and their attorneys did not respond to requests for comment.
Last fall, after city leaders decided to revoke Mailand’s rental license, residents of the Charlton Street property spoke at a City Council meeting, sharing their concerns about how the revocation would affect them. They talked about the challenge of finding affordable housing in a tight rental market. Local pastors, Dakota County officials and advocates for people with disabilities echoed their concerns.
In response, the City Council pushed the move-out date from Jan. 1 to summer.
Several council members said at the meeting that they sympathized with the residents, but they contended that Mailand, whose company owns more than two dozen other buildings, took advantage of residents by not keeping better tabs on the property.
City ordinance limits a 30-unit building such as 1492 Charlton St. to 15 total police calls or code violations annually, not including medical or domestic-related calls. The Charlton property prompted 76 police calls, from August 2016 to August 2017. That total included 27 calls related to a nuisance or criminal complaint.
Last fall, neighbor Emmett O’Brien said the building caused problems. He said he saw drug deals nearby and witnessed men climbing down the building’s exterior.
But Marge Nauer, the property’s longtime live-in caretaker, said reports of disturbances at the building were overblown. Neighbors didn’t like the building or its residents, she said.
“Of course I’m very happy” about the outcome, Nauer said, adding that she was showing apartments to prospective tenants just minutes after she learned of the decision on Monday.
Nine or 10 units are now vacant, as some residents left in anticipation of the July 1 move-out date, but the other 20 units remain occupied, Nauer said.
Nathan Tonnancour co-owns Ally Services, a company providing support services to people with disabilities living on their own. He had six clients living in the building last fall. They told him they felt safe, he said, adding that his main concern was whether the 27 police calls were calls related to nuisances or criminal activity.
He said he was proud of how tenants had mobilized and voiced their concerns: “I think it really made a difference.”