Minneapolis wants to shut down one of the North Side’s best-known low-rent landlords, Mahmood Khan, who has sparred with City Hall for years over dilapidated properties.
Khan’s tenants returned home Friday to find red notices on their doors and letters explaining that their landlord was no longer eligible to hold rental licenses. If successful, the city’s attempt to strip Khan’s licenses would be the largest revocation since it won a fight against notorious landlord Spiros Zorbalas in 2012.
It may be several months before anyone has to move, however, because Khan plans to appeal. But the decision could ultimately leave several hundred low-income residents now living in Khan’s 43 rental properties — mostly duplexes and single family homes that rent for about $900 — searching for new homes.
The city notes that Khan has racked up more than 1,000 violations at his rentals in the last two years. “[That is] clearly an indication that appropriate property management is an issue,” city regulatory chief Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde wrote in an e-mail.
Khan, 62, contends that he is doing his best under difficult circumstances. He said he has spent more than $1 million renovating his properties, many of which are more than 100 years old. “I’m providing low-income housing. I’m providing decent housing,” said Khan, who estimates he gets 10 to 20 calls a day from prospective tenants. “If I have violations, I fix them.”
In many cases, he is attempting to rehab 100-year-old homes for tenants who leave them in disrepair or skip out on rent. He filed 20 evictions between November and January.
He says his tenants frequently skip out on rent and sometimes also make repairs difficult. “They don’t give you access, sometimes they have dogs in there, they won’t let you in,” Khan said.
Not everyone agrees with his style. Alex Eaton, whose firm EIG Property Management managed the properties for several months in 2012, said he and Khan disagreed over how to rehab and lease the properties. Eaton advocated spending more money on repairs and more time finding qualified tenants, but Khan was eager to get the houses rented.
“He didn’t want to be spending money to fix up a property if he didn’t have a tenant yet,” Eaton said. “And also he wanted to pay rock-bottom prices for maintenance professionals.”Kahn responded that he avoids leaving properties vacant because they quickly attract vandals. He added that he could not afford Eaton’s suggested labor prices.
The last straw
City ordinances say any landlord who has two licenses revoked may not hold a license for five years. The final straw for city inspectors came after Khan recently lost a battle to keep his license for a property at 2714 N. 4th St. Tenants had been throwing their trash in the back yard and the city visited seven times to clean it up.
Khan said he rented the property to a mother and her five children, but many more people later moved in. “I evicted them and then the sheriff came,” Khan said. “They had to bring four squad cars to put them out.”
Copper thieves moved in once the place was vacant. Khan now hopes to sell the property by contract-for-deed.
Court files illuminate struggles at other properties.
After a 2011 tornado wrecked his 11-unit building at 2501 Golden Valley Road, Khan fought the city’s demolition all the way to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. The city won the case and knocked down the building last year. Nine people were injured in 2013 at 4425 Aldrich Av. N. after a fire broke out. Two of the tenants there are now suing Khan, saying the property did not have proper fire alarms or exits. Their attorney declined to comment.
Khan contends the building passed the city inspections only three or four months before the fire broke out.
Last month, Khan sued the city for attempting to condemn his rental property at 2123 Oliver Av. N. while a tenant with health problems was living inside. A judge agreed to give him 45 days to make necessary repairs. A visit to the house Monday revealed new windows, a new door and unfinished work — in addition to some tiny roach-like bugs on the countertop.
“You can’t … put all the blame on the landlord or all the blame on the tenants or all the blame on the city or the police,” Khan said. “It is a joint effort for all of us.”
But Council Member Blong Yang, whose ward has the highest concentration of Khan properties, said landlords can’t put the blame on tenants or old houses. “When you look at a house and you make a decision to buy the place, that’s on you now,” Yang said.
“I don’t begrudge anybody for wanting to be a landlord and to do good work here,” he added. “It’s just that sometimes when you don’t do the good work it affects the residents who live here. And these are probably some of the most vulnerable residents that we have in the city.”If Khan appeals the decision, it will likely be heard by an administrative law judge in March. If it is upheld, the City Council would vote on the revocation in April. Someone could buy the properties from Khan and apply for rental licenses, minimizing the need for tenant relocations.Khan, who works part-time as a flight attendant, said he’s nearly ready to retire, 30 years after he bought his first rental property. “But I want to retire on my own terms,” he said.