Walter Bratton, 83, has been renting out a small apartment building in the Midtown Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis since 1997. In the intervening decades, he has alienated longtime neighbors who allege drug dealing and gunfire revolve around 2527 10th Av. S.
"There's been shootings. We've lost a couple of neighbors on that block because of that, unfortunately," said block club leader Marjorie Magnuson, who recalled that in about 30 years of being neighbors with Bratton they have spoken just once. After another family found dozens of casings in their yard, Magnuson said she confronted Bratton, who firmly denied there had ever been a shooting.
City staffers have now called for a revocation of Bratton's rental license — the first time since 2018 that the city has sought to pull a landlord's license — for unpaid rental license fees, delinquent property taxes and "persistent criminal activity."
Bratton did not respond to a request for comment.
There have been 86 police calls to 2527 10th Av. S. since 2015 and hundreds of housing violations over the years. They resulted in the property's relegation to "Tier 3" status, indicating significant safety issues that require more frequent inspections. Emergency calls include reports of shootings inside the building, drug activity and domestic abuse. Housing violations refer to trash heaped outside and electrical problems.
In 2018 a tenant sued Bratton, alleging the building had no heat in winter, forcing her to use the stove and oven to heat her unit. Bratton was ordered to restore the heat to at least 68 degrees from October through April, per city ordinance. The tenant and Bratton ultimately settled out of court.
The following winter, the city's Emergency Repair Board received additional evidence of lack of heat at 2527 10th Av. S.
Nick Magrino, regulatory services legal coordinator, said the Emergency Repair Board authorized the city to fix the heating system for Bratton, who was assessed more than $41,000. The landlord did not reimburse the city.
"Last year, the property was the subject to high risk warrants for drug activity," said Magrino. "There have been numerous complaints regarding criminal activity and Mr. Bratton hasn't responded to attempts by the crime prevention specialist to address that criminal activity."
On Tuesday the city's Business, Inspections, Housing and Zoning Committee unanimously voted to revoke Bratton's license for 2527 10th Av. S. after he failed to participate in a public hearing.
Magrino said city staffers believe the building is currently vacant.
If tenants were still living there, the city would offer flexibility in the actual vacate date to help residents find new housing, city spokesman Casper Hill said. Minneapolis' renter relocation assistance ordinance requires property owners to pay renters three months' rent if a rental license is revoked. If the owner doesn't pay, the city pays renters and assesses the cost to the owners' property taxes if the owner fails to reimburse the city.
In 2020, a next-door landlord sued Bratton, alleging shots fired from his property destroyed her gas meter, left bullet holes in her house, and shattered a renter's windshield, causing all of her renters to immediately terminate their leases.
Bratton did not respond to the lawsuit and did not appear at hearings. He was ordered to pay more than $28,000, covering the neighbor landlord's loss of tenants, new siding, cleaning and mileage incurred as she drove back and forth to check on her rental. Bratton never paid, said lawyer Steve Anderson, who represented the neighboring landlord.
Earlier this year, Bratton's 26-year-old son Albert Walter Bratton III was federally indicted on drug trafficking charges. He had been raised from birth at 2527 10th Av. S. Bratton attempted to evict his son two years ago but was unsuccessful because he failed to provide the necessary three months' notice per state law.