How cities can keep rental housing safe

Minneapolis firefighters
Firefighters worked the scene where a fire broke out early Friday, Feb. 14, 2014 in Minneapolis. More than 40 firefighters responded to the fire about 5 a.m. Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel says firefighters encountered heavy smoke and fire on the second and third floor of the duplex as they searched the building for victims.
Elizabeth Flores/Star Tribune via AP

More details are emerging about landlord Paul Bertelson, the owner of a house where five children died in a fire last month.

The father of the children, Troy Lewis, said broken radiators led him to use a space heater and the oven to keep the duplex warm.

Funeral for victims of Feb. 14 Minneapolis fire
Several hundred friends, family, and community members gathered at a funeral Saturday to remember five children who died in a Minneapolis house fire on Feb. 14.
Alex Friedrich/MPR News

More from MPR News:

Bertelson says Lewis never raised any concerns about the heat.

"We monthly are going around to our units and checking in, and I had no conversation with him in his tenancy about baseboard heaters not working," Bertelson said.

Bertelson, whose company owns about 20 rental properties in Minneapolis, says a licensed electrician installed the heaters in 2009. A city inspection last year found no problems with the apartment's heating system.

On The Daily Circuit, we discuss what a city can do to make sure landlords are keeping their properties safe and in good repair.

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LEARN MORE ABOUT RENTING, LANDLORDS:

HOME Line
Provides free and low-cost legal, organizing, education, and advocacy services so that tenants throughout Minnesota can solve their own rental housing problems.

Legal help
In Hennepin County, Legal Aid (612-334-5970) provides free legal advice and representation to low-income tenants facing eviction and repair problems. In Ramsey and Washington Counties, Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (651-222-4731) provides free legal advice and representation to low-income tenants with those problems. Tenants in those and other counties can also find information on a variety of legal matters at www.lawhelpmn.org.

12 Must-Know Tips Before Becoming A Landlord (Forbes)

Foes of Urban Blight Take Aim at Landlords
A Baltimore woman's five-year campaign to pressure landlords to repair blighted buildings has attracted fans and imitators in other cities, the ire of some property owners, and now for the first time, a pair of lawsuits. (Wall Street Journal)

Magner v. Gallagher
Magner v. Gallagher addresses the question of whether the FHA's ban on racial discrimination can be violated by someone who does not actually engage in racial discrimination: Owners of rental properties in St. Paul, Minnesota brought this suit claiming that the city's enforcement of its housing code — ensuring that rental units were safe and otherwise habitable — violated the FHA because the repairs and maintenance necessary to comply with the code would increase rents and price out many of their African-American tenants. (Cato Institute)