Stripped of his rental licenses by the city of Minneapolis, Stephen Frenz has ordered an estimated 160 tenants in five south Minneapolis apartment buildings to vacate their properties by Sunday.
But many of them say they won’t leave, setting up another showdown with the controversial landlord who has been repeatedly criticized by public officials for the substandard conditions of his properties and his treatment of renters.
“I’m not going to move because I haven’t found any place to move to,” Candida Mendez, 49, said through a translator.
Mendez, who is a dishwasher at a local restaurant, shares her one-room apartment with a 12-year-old daughter who has Down syndrome in a building on the 3100 block of 22nd Av. S. She has lived there for five years.
Arianna Feldman, an organizer with Inquilinxs Unidxs Por Justicia (United Renters for Justice), estimated there were about 50 apartment units and 160 tenants who got the orders in August to move out by Sunday. There are a handful of tenants who were given later dates, depending on the expiration of their leases.
Council Member Alondra Cano, who represents the ward where the apartment buildings are located, said she is hopeful that Legal Aid attorneys representing the tenants will be able to block the evictions should Frenz ask for an order from the Hennepin County housing court.
Cano received an e-mail from Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo promising no Minneapolis officer will participate in ousting tenants if they are evicted.
The five Minneapolis apartment buildings are the same ones that Frenz, facing the imminent loss of his rental licenses, attempted to sell to Rickey Misco last year under contracts for deed.
City officials refused to grant Misco the licenses because contracts for deed allowed Frenz and his business partner, Spiros Zorbalas, to reacquire the buildings if Misco failed to make mortgage payments. Zorbalas and Frenz are barred for five years from renting apartments in the city.
After the tenants filed a tenant remedies action, a housing court referee appointed an administrator to oversee the properties and collect rents until Misco returned the buildings to Frenz.
When Frenz reacquired the properties, he notified tenants they had to leave. Some got later dates, depending on the expiration of their leases.
“We will be remodeling the entire property and are vacating all apartments in order to effectively complete the renovations,” Frenz said in the letters.
Frenz was not at his office Friday, and did not return messages left for comment.
Cano noted that in north Minneapolis, the city made a major effort to find homes for tenants facing evictions after the city revoked the licenses of landlord Mahmood Khan. She hopes the city can replicate such support for the Frenz tenants.
Jacinto Clara Aguilar, 48, is a manager at a McDonalds, and lives in a Frenz-owned apartment on the 3100 block of 22nd Av. S. with his wife and a son, 24, and daughter, 14. They have also been ordered to vacate. He lamented the difficulty of finding affordable housing.
“We don’t want to leave this neighborhood,” he said, adding that they’ve been in the same building since 1996. “I’m a little nervous, but I’m a little angry. I’ve been living here for over 20 years and all of a sudden, they give me only two months to leave.”
Aguilar pays $765 in rent, but has not paid in the past two months because Frenz has no rental license and cannot collect rents. Misco collected rents, but was ordered by the housing court to return them. The temporary administrator collected the rents when it controlled the buildings.
Tenants from the Corcoran neighborhood and Inquilinxs Unidxs Por Justicia will hold a “Corcoran Is Not For Sale Celebration” from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday to protest the threatened evictions and discuss “next steps of protecting their homes and neighborhood.”