A Minneapolis City Council committee voted Monday to revoke the rental licenses of 16 North Side properties, angering housing advocates who claimed tenants were being unfairly forced from their homes.
If approved by the full council Friday, the action stripping landlord Ron Folger of permission to rent the homes would be the third-biggest revocation of rental licenses for a single owner by the city.
Fifth Ward Council Member Don Samuels said afterward that the council vote will "send a message that you will have to keep properties in good condition with good conduct or you will be not be able to rent in Minneapolis."
Peter Brown, secretary of the Minnesota Tenants Union, said he felt "kicked in the stomach" by the vote and that the units' tenants will be victims. Tenants Union members attending the committee hearing chanted "heartless" at council members after the vote.
Elizabeth Glidden, committee chairwoman, acknowledged the Tenants Union's concerns, proposing the eviction of tenants of the 14 rented houses and two rented duplexes be stayed for 90 days or longer "to ensure that affected tenants are relocated to suitable housing arrangements" and city staff work to help relocate the tenants. That motion also passed unanimously.
Before the hearing, Brown had suggested the properties be placed in court-ordered receivership and the tenants allowed to stay in place. But city officials said that wasn't possible because Folger's licenses were being revoked for his having incurred two prior revocations, not for current housing code violations.
Glidden said city ordinance requires the revocation of all rental licenses of a property owner for five years if the owner has two or more revocations. The council revoked one Folger license in January when he failed to produce a management plan after a tenant was arrested for drug dealing on the premises.
A second rental license was revoked in April for Folger's failure to meet an inspector to check whether violations had been corrected on a house.
The violations included "deteriorated ceilings" in the bathroom, "broken and missing glass in storm windows and primary windows," "torn, split or missing screening," no carbon monoxide alarm and a "chirping" smoke detector on the first floor, lack of proper handrails on the basement stairs, and a rotten cabinet base beneath a kitchen sink.
The inspections department has cited him for 368 violations on 15 properties since 2009.
At the committee meeting, Folger blamed a housing manager for failure to evict the tenant selling drugs, and said a tenant had changed the locks on the other house, making it a problem to gain entry.
Folger, who lives in Oakdale, said in an earlier interview that he started buying homes in 2005 during the foreclosure meltdown. He was also working in the Star Tribune mailroom, and said he felt overwhelmed by his responsibilities. He recently retired.
Samuels defended the revocations of Folger's licenses, calling him a "slumlord" in comments after the meeting. He said that several years ago the council approved the ordinance to revoke all rental licenses after two revocations, because some landlords with five or six revocations were still being allowed to rent. Residents were fleeing the North Side because of crime and deteriorated housing conditions, he said.
Glidden said Monday's proceeding was a "quasi-judicial hearing" and not a public hearing, so the public could not speak. That upset some in the crowd. Bill McGaughey, a leader of the Minneapolis Property Rights Action Committee, a landlord group, led the "heartless" chants.
The regulatory services department had planned to revoke 17 of Folger's licenses, but the department said Monday one property had been sold.
Glidden said Folger could appeal the council action to the Minnesota Court of Appeals and Folger said afterward that he planned to do so.
Randy Furst • 612-673-4224