Minneapolis hopes the final eviction is near for a north Minneapolis landlord whose large portfolio of dilapidated properties has drawn more than 3,000 violations.
The City Council is expected to take its first vote in the next week to revoke the rental licenses of Mahmood Khan, after the landlord spent much of 2015 fighting the proposed action through a lengthy city appeals process. But the saga that began nearly 11 months ago may drag on for much of this year, too, as Khan pledged Friday to take his case to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
The revocation would be the city’s largest since it pulled the plug on notorious landlord Spiros Zorbalas in 2012.
About 350 tenants live in Khan’s 42 rental properties, most of which are clustered in the most distressed neighborhoods of north Minneapolis. A city official said Friday that the tenants will not be forced to move until Khan has exhausted his legal options, however.
Khan argues that he is doing a service by providing affordable housing, and has blamed many of the problems on his tenants damaging property, disrupting efforts to make repairs or skipping out on rent.
An administrative hearing officer who reviewed the case this fall wrote that Khan has “lax” tenant screening, citing his willingness to rent to people with a history of evictions as well as newly freed inmates, whom he finds through parole officers.
“You can’t wipe the people off the face of the Earth,” Khan said Friday. “They’re going to go somewhere. Just because they have had bad problems in the past, where are they going to live?”
The hearing officer, James Gurovitsch, concluded that the revocations were valid in part because Khan does a poor job of maintaining the properties. Khan’s units have amassed more than 3,500 violations and 2,246 visits from city housing inspectors, most of them since 2008, according to the hearing officer’s report. Gurovitsch noted that even the property occupied by Khan’s handyman has gotten in trouble for overgrown lawns and rubbish.
“The fact that Mr. Khan chooses to rent to people with poor rental histories and criminal records, people Mr. Khan states other landlords would not rent to, only goes to show the need to be more vigilant in the management of his properties,” Gurovitsch wrote.
He went on: “The benefit to the city and its residents of the low income housing provided by Mr. Khan is far outweighed by the burdens imposed on the city and its resources in dealing with the many problems. …”
Khan counters that he spends nearly $250,000 a year maintaining the properties, many of which are more than a century old. He says they were in rough shape when he bought them, largely in 2008 and 2009. “Some of them were going to be demolished. Some of them were condemned,” Khan said. “I brought them up to code.”
He also spends a lot of time in court, filing four to six evictions every month because of unpaid rent. “I tell all my tenants the same thing,” Khan said. “Please be clean, be tidy and don’t be nasty to your neighbors. Keep it cool, keep it calm.”
Months after the city first moved to revoke his licenses, Khan filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development this past spring, saying the city’s housing policies discriminate against his largely low-income, minority tenants.
Khan has taken the city to the Appeals Court before, when he resisted the city’s order to tear down a tornado-damaged apartment building on Golden Valley Road. He lost, and the building was demolished in 2014.
Noah Schuchman, the city’s interim director of regulatory services, said the city will try to ease the transition for tenants if it ultimately prevails and vacates the properties.
“We would have stakeholders engaged to help find housing for that many tenants,” Schuchman said.