Proposed ordinance would prevent landlords from keeping out felons, sex offenders


Landlords in Minneapolis are up in arms over two proposed ordinances that would protect felons… and not law-abiding citizens.

Now members of the Minnesota Multi-Housing Association are speaking out about it.

There are two ordinances which have been drafted by Minneapolis Council President Lisa Bender and ward-5 council member Jeremiah Ellison.

They would prevent landlords from denying applicants with felony convictions over five years old, misdemeanors over two years old and arrests that never led to a conviction.

On top of that, they wouldn’t be allowed to deny renters who have evictions over three years old…or credit scores under 500.

It’s something property owners argue just isn’t right.

“I find it hard to believe the city would walk into a bank in Minneapolis and tell them they could no longer use credit scores to underwrite for an auto loan or a mortgage loan,” said Minnesota Multi-Housing Association president Nichol Beckstrand.

The second ordinance would limit how much landlords can charge for a security deposit, putting a cap of two months rent on it.

“That’s sort of the industry standard,” Ellison says.

According to Ellison, the ordinances are all about removing barriers to low-income renters who he argues are victims of the city’s low vacancy rate.

All of the details haven’t been worked out yet, and council members say they want property owners to help them figure it out.

They say they hope to have a final version and a public hearing by the end of the summer.

The Minnesota Multi-Housing Association, for their part, is digging in and getting ready for a fight.

They’ve announced a new campaign, Safe and Affordable Neighborhoods Minneapolis, to educate the public on these two new ordinances.

“The negative impact is clear. They will mean higher costs for renters, more disruption and turnover in buildings, and less safety for everyone in the neighborhood,” says Minnesota Multi-Housing Association Board Chairman Mike Garvin.

Here’s what nobody on the council seems to be talking about.

Under the proposed ordinances, landlords would seemingly be required to rent to sex offenders, as long as they aren’t recent sex offenders.  Convicts who were released from prison years ago for manslaughter.  People who historically don’t pay their rent.

There seems to be a growing trend to put the rights of tenants ahead of landlords.

In April, the New York State Senate approved the Tenant Protection Act of 2019.  The purpose, according to the state, is to “hold unscrupulous landlords criminally accountable for harassing renters”.

It started in 2017, when then Attorney General Eric Schneiderman introduced the Tenant Protection Act as a program bill sponsored by State Sen. Liz Krueger and Assembly member Joseph Lentol.

At the time, Schneiderman said the states existing law were inadequate to protect tenants from greedy landlords, and that it was for prosecutors to criminally convict a landlord of harassment of a rent regulated tenant under the existing law.

That’s because prosecutors had to prove that a tenant sustained a physical injury due to a landlord’s harassment.

He said that based on data from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, his office found no single landlord has been convicted of the crime of harassment of a rent regulated tenant over the past two decades.

His conclusion wasn’t that it wasn’t happening – just the opposite.  He said it was necessary to amend the law to give prosecutors the right tools to protect tenants from dangerous tactics by landlords.

The current Attorney General Letitia James agrees.  She has continued her predecessor’s efforts to ensure the passage of Tenant Protection Act, saying that it sets a “more reasonable evidentiary standard”.

It also eliminates a key component – one that forced the accuser to prove a physical injury to prosecute a landlord for intentionally harassing a tenant using insidious tactics such intentionally turning off heat and hot water.

Here’s what James said in a statement:

“For far too long, unscrupulous landlords have gotten away with subjecting rent-regulated tenants to dangerous and horrific conditions in an attempt to force them out of their homes.”

She goes on to say they’ve been getting away with terrible things for too long.

“The landlords behind these serious acts of tenant harassment have been able to evade justice because the standard for proving criminal culpability has been impossibly high – today that begins to change. This bill will go a long way in protecting our most vulnerable tenants… I thank Senator Krueger and the Legislature for their partnership on this action to support tenants and ensure bad actors are held accountable.”

Sen. Krueger says it’s all to protect people – conveniently leaving out discussing protecting landlord rights.

“Over the years I have heard far too many horror stories from my constituents about the harassment they have suffered at the hands of unscrupulous landlords…It is high time this law was updated to protect tenants and give them a fighting chance, and to safeguard our dwindling stock of affordable housing. I commend Attorney General James for her leadership on this issue, and I urge the Governor to sign this bill,” said Krueger.

Assembly member Lentol blames it all on greed and avoids the conversation about tenants who refuse to actually pay their rent.

“In an effort to get market-value rents, landlords have gone to great lengths to force rent-regulated tenants out of their homes. Their wrongdoings have escaped the scope of current criminal law. This legislation will ensure that landlords are punished if they purposefully harass tenants and sabotage rental units in an effort to force the tenants to leave. This is common-sense legislation and I am glad it finally passed both the Assembly and Senate.”


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