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Despite unpaid fines, Minneapolis cuts a check for landlord

Posted by: James Eli Shiffer under Local business, People and neighborhoods, Politics and government Updated: April 3, 2012 - 3:35 PM
3019 Colfax Avenue North

3019 Colfax Avenue North

With 105 rental properties in some of Minneapolis’ toughest neighborhoods, Steve Meldahl calls himself the city’s biggest landlord. He has harsh words for the city inspectors who repeatedly hit him with fines, which now total more than $72,000.

“They’ve been harassing me for many, many years because I … don’t put up with any of their guff,” said Meldahl. “I’ve probably won 12 lawsuits against them in my 40-year career.”

Last May he won another one, and despite Meldahl’s backlog of fines, the city is about to cut him a check for $4,830 as a result. Last month, the City Council decided against appealing a conciliation court judgment that found the city damaged one of Meldahl’s properties while boarding it up.

So will the city merely deduct that amount from Meldahl’s unpaid fines and $40,000 more in delinquent property taxes?
The answer is no. In this case, the city and Meldahl actually agree on something.

“These are completely separate matters,” city spokesman Matt Lindstrom said.

“It’s really a separate issue,” Meldahl said.

The saga of the bungled boarding started in December 2009, when the police and a city contractor went to 3019 Colfax Av. N. City inspectors had condemned the rental property because of concerns about the safety of the furnace, something Meldahl disagreed with.

The contractor screwed the boards into the new aluminum around the windows and doors. Meldahl said the steel security doors also were “ripped up” and tossed into the front yard.

Last May, a judge ordered the city and its contractor to compensate Meldahl for the damage. The amount was small potatoes compared to the mounting fines that the city was assessing against Meldahl for problems at 3019 Colfax and other properties.

In November, the city Department of Regulatory Services decided that it was “in the city’s best interests” to let Meldahl once again rent out 3019 Colfax and another property. The city forgave fees and assessments totaling $33,800, including $14,380 for 3019 Colfax alone. In exchange, Meldahl agreed to comply with the city’s orders, abandon any claims regarding the condemnations and pay the remaining assessments that he had challenged.

The matter of the $4,830 court judgment wasn’t included in the settlement. Meldahl said he has taken a financial hit from the whole matter, losing two years of rent because of the city’s condemnation, among other costs.

Meldahl said he will pay up when he gets a bill for the fines and taxes. But that may take a while. Lindstrom, the city spokesman, said Meldahl has until Sept. 20 to pay the special assessments. “The city cannot use a collection agency and must legally allow him time to make these payments.” If he doesn’t pay it, a 10 percent “handling fee” will be added, and then the City Council would certify the debt in November. Then the debt would go on his 2013 Hennepin County tax bill.

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