Low-income tenants of a downtown Minneapolis apartment building, whose high-pressure eviction drew the attention of city officials and tenant advocates, have won a two-month reprieve and back rent from their landlord.
The new owners of the tattered Park Laurel building on the western edge of downtown say they need to remove the tenants to overhaul the 123-year-old building. The 96-unit property with shared bathrooms is in dire need of repair but is also an affordable refuge — some of its tenants see shelters as their only other option.
Tenants were given until Sept. 30 to leave. Last week, the city filed a legal action against the owners for not making repairs despite city orders to do so in July. They include replacing fire doors, replacing unit doors, hiring an exterminator and fixing the buzzer system.
The next day, the building’s property manager informed tenants they can stay until Nov. 30 rent-free and will be repaid rent back to mid-July.
Deputy Minneapolis City Attorney Erik Nilsson said the city is in discussions with the ownership over how to satisfy the tenants and make repairs.
“We along with tenants are generally happy with this outcome [of the legal action] at this point, depending on the timeline of rent/deposit payback,” said Eric Hauge, an organizer with tenant’s rights group Homeline.
Homeline initially criticized management for heavy-handed techniques to evict tenants, including lockout threats and notices about inspections to “ensure the move-out process is happening.” Hauge said they may intervene in the legal action if the building repairs go unaddressed. He added that, preferably, the tenants wouldn’t be displaced at all.
Claude Hernandez, a 70-year-old Vietnam War veteran surviving on Social Security, still isn’t sure where he will go after leaving his modest unit of 12 years. He pays $475 a month for it and shares a bathroom with other tenants.
He expects he will have to put his belongings in storage and likely contact the Department of Veterans Affairs to see if it can help.
“I’d give up the rent — or what they were going to return to us — just for more time,” Hernandez said. “Because August and September — two months, it seems like two days. It just flew.”
Justin Greer, director of operations at Maven Real Estate, the developer, said they have completed most of the city’s repair requests.
“Once we understood that some tenants were having a difficult time finding a new or replacement residence, and that some would end up in shelters, after speaking with the city and representatives of Homeline, we agreed to extend their ability to vacate until the end of November,” Greer said.