Provisional license granted for troublesome Burnsville apartments

  • Article by: KATIE HUMPHREY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 20, 2011 - 11:38 PM

Burnsville City Council, in granting license, aimed to minimize hassle for renters.

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Country Village Apartments resident Jesus Escobar, right, was given short notice to move his furnishings out of the bedrooms so carpet padding could be changed.

Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star Tribune

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Only apartments that have been repaired and passed inspection can be occupied at the troubled Country Village Apartments in Burnsville after Jan. 1.

The City Council approved a provisional rental license for Lindahl Properties Tuesday after more than two hours of discussion.

The license had been suspended in October after inspectors found dozens of code violations and squalid living conditions.

Council members, who learned during the hearing that inspectors continue to find new violations at the complex, stopped short of a blanket revocation of the rental license Tuesday out of concern for the residents who would be forced to move.

"I don't want to penalize the innocent in this process," said Council Member Dan Kealey.

Paul Lindahl told the council his Minnetonka-based firm has spent more than $400,000 so far and has had contractors at the complex doing structural repairs since early December. "I believe we are on track now," Lindahl said.

He declined to comment after the council's decision, as did his attorney, Jason Hutchison.

In October, inspectors reported that despite months of effort to force repairs, ceilings sagged with water damage and one family had no working shower, just a pipe sticking out of the wall that they used to fill a bucket. Residents also reported infestations of mice and cockroaches.

On Tuesday, Karen Selden told council members that she moved out of her apartment months ago because she had no working bathroom. Yet she still pays rent because she hasn't been able to break her lease.

"Why isn't my apartment done?" she asked. "No one's living there. No one's in the way."

Earlier Tuesday some residents said the license suspension did spur some repairs.

"What the city did was good," said Jesus Escobar, who has lived in the complex with his family for five years.

He said the extra pressure to make repairs led to new kitchen cabinets and appliances and repairs to damaged walls and a leaky bathroom ceiling.

On Tuesday, he said, the family quickly moved their belongings aside when crews arrived on to replace the padding beneath the carpet.

The workers did not replace the carpet, but Escobar said the family will shampoo it themselves if they have to. He said they'd prefer to stay at Country Village -- now that things are getting fixed -- rather than uproot their children during the school year.

To comply with the provisional license, Lindahl Properties also will have to meet deadlines for improvements to the property as a whole, starting with a Jan. 15 deadline to get fire doors and alarm systems up to code. Deadlines later this year cover an assortment of interior and exterior work. If any of those are missed, the rental license will be revoked.

Mayor Elizabeth Kautz urged residents to look for new housing now if they can.

Although many residents have been reluctant to move because it's inconvenient and expensive, that's just what Rachel Krieg hopes to do. She moved into Country Village in May because it was cheap, but her 3-year-old son, Deacon, developed respiratory problems after workers cut into the ceiling and walls to fix water leaks.

She said she hopes her apartment will be declared uninhabitable so she can break her lease.

"I want out," Krieg said. "One way or another, I'm gone."

Katie Humphrey • 952-746-3286

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