9 landlords complain to feds about cities' rental codes

  • Article by: RANDY FURST
  • Star Tribune
  • November 9, 2012 - 8:09 PM

Nine landlords have filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), accusing the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul of adopting unfair codes and policies on rental housing.

Also joining in the complaint against the cities are Rock of Ages Missionary Baptist Church and its minister, the Rev. Sylvester Davis, who allege that the church's primarily black membership has been adversely affected by a lack of affordable housing.

The landlords, some of whom have had their licenses revoked after repeated code violations, accuse the two cities of overly restrictive rental codes and practices that violate HUD policies and limit the landlords' ability to rent apartments.

As a result, low-income people and racial minorities have been among those unable to rent units from the landlords, the complaint contends.

The complaint was filed this week by Bloomington attorney John Shoemaker, who asked HUD to find both cities in violation of federal housing regulations and to withhold federal funds to both cities.

"It appears these landlords are trying to take another bite of [the same] apple," said St. Paul City Attorney Sara Grewing, who said the complaint appears to be similar to suits Shoemaker has previously filed against St. Paul.

"We are committed to ensuring that the people of the city of St. Paul live in safe and habitable housing and we will defend that commitment anytime, anywhere," she said.

Peter Ginder, deputy Minneapolis city attorney, said his office had received the complaint but he had not yet had a chance to review it.

One of the policies targeted by the complaint is a Minneapolis city ordinance that requires the City Council to forbid landlords from renting any property in the city for five years if they have lost rental licenses on two or more individual properties.

Ron Folger, one of the nine landlords who filed the complaint, lost his rental licenses on 16 properties in Minneapolis last year as a result of the city revoking his licenses on two properties. Minneapolis City Council Member Don Samuels has called him a "slumlord," which Folger denies.

Randy Furst • 612-673-4224

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