Minneapolis police and University of Minnesota and city representatives went door to door Monday with two messages: Keep your Spring Jam parties – and your landlord – under control.
The tour of the University neighborhood follows a number of attempts from the city to crack down on problem landlords.
Staff members from Minneapolis Housing Inspections Services were also on hand Monday to encourage students to call 311 in order to file a complaint about the maintenance of their house or apartment.
“We’re just letting them know that they don’t have to live with that,” said James Coleman, a staff member with the department.
Coleman said city housing inspectors don’t deal with civil disputes between landlords and tenants, but investigate complaints and set pre-determined deadlines to force landlords to fix things like smoke detectors and windows.
Negligent landlords can be issued citations up to $2,000 for failing to meet those deadlines, Coleman said.
The Minneapolis City Council has approved several ordinance changes and programs in the past few months aimed at clamping down on consistently bad landlords.
The most recent proposed amendment would prevent property owners from obtaining a new license for three years after a license revocation. Owners would still be able to retain their licenses for the rest of their properties. That proposal awaits approval from the Council, which could come as soon as Friday.
License revocations — a last line of defense for the city — have increased by more than 500 percent since 2005.
Ward 8 Councilwoman Elizabeth Glidden, who is the chairwoman of the Regulatory, Energy and Environment Committee, said the change essentially nips the problem of neglectful landlords in the bud.
“It says you can’t add to your portfolio if you’ve proved to be a bad renter in the sense that you haven’t maintained a property well,” she said.
Further regulation on repairs relating to lead-based paint and upkeep on furnaces also passed in March.
Earlier this year the city introduced a new website that lists renters who currently have their license revoked. The site is intended to keep property owners accountable for not following regulations, said JoAnn Velde, manger of housing inspections services for the city.
By introducing tiered rental inspections, in which the worst properties are inspected annually while the best are inspected every eight years, the city is shifting its resources to the problem landlords, Velde said.
That system was implemented this month.
With the recent foreclosure crisis, more investors have bought up properties for a low price, Velde said. Some of those renters follow the rules, but others don’t.
“We’re trying to send the strong message that it’s a privilege to hold a rental license in Minneapolis,” Velde said.
Velde said the city provided free house inspections to students moving into the neighborhoods surrounding the University in the fall, which she plans on doing again this year.
Because many students are from out of town or are moving into a house or apartment for the first time, they aren’t aware of their options when dealing with landlords, Coleman said.
“A lot of them don’t even know that these departments exist,” he said.
Social host reminder
Nick Buchner doesn’t mind being reminded about the consequences of letting a party get out of hand.
A junior at the University, Buchner was one of dozens of residents to get a knock on their door and a friendly reminder Tuesday afternoon.
With Spring Jam on the horizon, student neighborhood liaisons for the University went door-to-door telling students to keep parties under control and reminding them of the social host ordinance. Under the ordinance, hosting a party with underage drinkers present is a misdemeanor offense.
“I do appreciate the U giving out these notices,” Buchner said. “Even though I’m 21, it’s still a liability to have younger kids around.”
After the infamous Spring Jam riots in the University area two years ago, representatives from the Minneapolis Police Department and the University organized the event in order to educate residents.
“We realize at one time, these parties can explode,” said Nick Juarez, a crime prevention specialist for the Minneapolis Police Department. He added that by reaching out to the community, police can avoid a “worst case scenario” like rioting.
Buchner said last year’s Spring Jam was much tamer than the previous year, which he attributed to police getting the word out.