Tenants rallied on a block in south Minneapolis on Friday, vowing to oppose a new effort by landlord Stephen Frenz to force them out of their apartments.
Frenz went into Hennepin Housing Court last week and filed eviction notices against tenants in 37 apartment units in four buildings he owns in the 3100 block of S. 22nd Avenue. He had already gone to court to evict tenants in five units in a fifth building.
An estimated 100 tenants, including children, would be forced out of their apartments if the court approves the evictions, according to an estimate by Arianna Feldman, a spokeswoman for Inquilinxs Unidxs Por Justicia (Renters United for Justice), a tenants rights organization.
“Our plan is to fight it,” said Feldman. “Everyone deserves a safe and stable home.”
The tenants are represented by Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid. Court hearings on the evictions will be held Friday and Aug. 26, Feldman said.
Many of the tenants are low-income people of color.
In 2017, the Minneapolis City Council revoked some 60 rental licenses assigned to Frenz after city officials discovered Frenz owned his properties jointly with Spiros Zorbalas, a landlord who had his rental licenses revoked in 2012. Frenz has since managed to sell off most of the buildings, but the five on S. 22nd Avenue remain in his portfolio.
The tenants want to stay and have sought to buy the buildings with the help of a local land bank and turn them into owner-operated cooperatives, but negotiations appeared to have broken down. Frenz reportedly wants $7 million for the buildings, while the land bank has offered more than $5 million.
In the meantime, without a license, Frenz is prohibited from collecting rents, and last month housing court referee Mark Labine appointed a temporary administrator to collect rents and make necessary repairs. Labine said the buildings need to be either vacated or sold.
Frenz has attempted to renovate vacant units, including one that wasn’t vacant.
“We are here to stay,” said Denise Herrera, a tenant leader, in a statement issued by Inquilinxs Unidxs Por Justicia, adding, “we will continue to fight to protect our homes. We love our neighborhood, and our community is like a family.”
Frenz did not return a phone call for comment.