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Frazee to crack down on problem landlords

Frazee police and other city workers will continue to access Frazee mobile home parks as usual, in spite of a request by owners that they no longer patrol trailer courts in Frazee.

City Attorney Tom Winters told the city council at its regular meeting June 11 that the owner of Albertson Lake Trailer Court made the request, according to the Frazee Forum newspaper. The roads going into the mobile home park from Balsam Avenue are privately owned, he added.

A verbal request was also made at the meeting for police patrols to end in Feldt's Trailer Court and Town Lake Trailer court. A landlord who attended the meeting said that some renters are feeling scrutinized and targeted. A mobile home park tenant at the meeting said she was concerned about how the request would impact the safety of residents at the mobile home parks.

Police and city staff have the right to access rental property for inspection under the city's rental ordinance, and all city residents deserve police and fire protection, Frazee Mayor Hank Ludtke said in an interview.

"There are people who own trailers in these courts, they pay taxes, so they pay for police protection — we will still be in the trailer courts for that reason," he said. "The rumor mill is in full force," he added. "We are not going to shut down the trailer courts."

What the city is going to do, and which may have attracted the ire of some landlords, is to add some serious teeth to its rental ordinance.

Frazee councilman Mike Sharp said the proposed new rental ordinance is designed to give the city the tools to deal forcefully with problem landlords.

"Our existing ordinance has not been able to get a handle on some of our problem landlords in town," he said in an interview. ""Most of our landlords are great, but a handful aren't."

The proposed ordinance, which will be considered by the city council at its June 25 meeting, "will use provisions that other cities have used, like Minneapolis has used, to prevent slumlords from setting up in the city," Sharp said.

Frazee now has a three-strike policy — after three violations of the rental ordinance, the city can revoke a landlord's rental registration for that property, Sharp said.

Under the proposed ordinance, if a landlord's rental registration is revoked for a property, that landlord will not be allowed to obtain any new rental registrations for three years. Other existing rentals owned by that landlord will not be affected.

But if a landlord has two rental registrations revoked, that landlord will not be allowed to hold any rental registrations in the city for five years — essentially meaning they will be out of business for five years.

They can't charge rent on their existing holdings, and tenants must be given a reasonable amount of time to find new accomodations.

Landlords are free to hold on to their property, continuing to pay property taxes but unable to collect rent, for five years if they so choose. But as a practical matter in Minneapolis, for example, most landlords choose to sell their rental units to other landlords instead of waiting it out, Sharp said.

"As a city we would never want to get to that point," he said. "But some landlords in town hold that the city cannot legally challenge them."

Frazee has gotten a regional reputation caused by a handful of bad landlords, he said, and the proposed ordinance is designed to put an end to that. "It really comes down to landlords not screening their prospective tenants," he said.