Minneapolis license revocations: Zorbalas & Folger properties

by Eric Hauge on March 28, 2012

Image from 2008 City Pages cover story

Earlier this month the City of Minneapolis won it’s Minnesota Court of Appeals case against landlord Spiros Zorbalas, resulting in rental license revocations for three of his properties. With these three licences set to be revoked, a city ordinance may be enforced that will bar Zorbalas from operating any other rental property in Minneapolis—affecting over 700 units in 35 additional properties. Obviously, this could have drastic effects on thousands of Minneapolis renters if those revocations are enforced and tenants are ordered to move out.

This recent decision follows another case involving approximately 17 properties owned by landlord Ronald Folger, who is facing similar license revocations for all of his rental properties. Tenants in these properties were notified that they may need to vacate their apartment at some point in the near future.

How can tenants deal with landlords who refuse to respond to repair orders? What role can residents of these properties play in inspections and license decision-making processes? What rights to tenants have when a rental license is revoked? How can tenants and city inspections departments better hold reckless and irresponsible landlord accountable before facing the possible displacement of residents?

The answers to some of these questions may be easier than others—tenants do have the right to go to court if their landlord ignores their repair requests, and residents can play a role by engaging their local city officials. In some cases, landlords who do not have a rental license may have difficulty legally collecting rent and tenants might be able to break their lease (you should consult an attorney for your own situation). What do you think should be done in situations where tenants may facing poor living conditions, but also are in need of affordable housing? How can this rental housing be maintained so residents are not displaced and do not have to deal with disrepair?

Are you a resident of one of the affected properties? Comment below about what you’ve experienced and/or what you want to see happen, submit your story online, or email us privately if you need advice or if you have questions.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

carsch August 31, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Minneapolis sure likes to enforce its housing code on people who can’t afford to follow it. It makes me think it’s economic terrorism to drive lower income homeowners and renters out of the city.

We see situations like this at Habitat as well. Someone who’s already struggling gets hit with a code violation, let’s say cracked paint. They’re already low income, so they probably can’t afford the paint and really can’t afford the fine. If their taxes and insurance are escrowed, the price of the fine gets added to their mortgage payment, which causes their mortgage payment to go up, which can start them heading towards foreclosure. When the dust settles, the person may end up losing their home over cracked paint, which seems like a terrible waste.

This seems to me like a similar situation. Sure, Minneapolis has an interest in not letting a Slumlord rent to people. However, I really have to question whether that interest justifies making 200 people homeless. Unless living their was making the tenants sick or injuring them, I have to think that living there was better than living nowhere.

So I wonder if there is a bit of economic terrorism going on there. The area around St. Thomas tried to ban rental housing because the rich people were complaining about the students. I wonder if Minneapolis is trying to do that with this guy’s properties by forcing them to close due to him not being licensed.

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