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Mpls. landlords fight bid to limit vetos of tenants

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Landlords in Minneapolis are blasting a proposal that would restrict their ability to reject rental applicants, based on credit, eviction and criminal histories. But a City Council member backing a draft ordinance calling for those limits says people need to be given a chance to prove themselves. 

Landlords, joined by some tenants, kicked off an effort to defeat the proposal Friday at a rally in Minneapolis.

"This includes eliminating the ability to check for many violent crimes, for chronic nonpayment of rent and lease violations, for credit scores indicating serious financial risks, and other background that shows whether a person will be a good neighbor," said Mike Garvin, chair of the Minnesota Multi Housing Association, a trade group for some 2,000 landlords in the state.

Landlords also object to proposed limits on security and pet damage deposits. Security deposits could not exceed a half month's rent, if a tenant pays the last month's rent in advance. Otherwise, security deposits would be limited to one month's rent. Pet damage deposits would be capped at 25 percent of a month's rent.

City Council member Jeremiah Ellison sits for a portrait.
Minneapolis City Council member Jeremiah Ellison
Evan Frost | MPR News 2018

Minneapolis City Council member Jeremiah Ellison said the proposed ordinance would give a fair shake to people who have blemishes on their records but are ready to move forward with their lives.

"Folks are haunted by their credit score, by their eviction history or very outdated criminal history," he said. "I don't think that's fair, and I don't think a lot of my constituents or folks around Minneapolis think that's fair."

Ellison expects there'll be a public hearing on the issue by the end of summer. Meanwhile, he says, he is open to feedback.

He said there would not be a blanket prohibition on considering criminal histories.

"There are exceptions," he said. "Folks who are on the sex-offender registry, folks who have been convicted of arson and racketeering."

Landlords complain the proposed ordinance will force rents up, impair tenant safety and discourage the building of new apartments in the city.

"They will bring up the cost of managing a property," said Nichol Beckstrand, Minnesota Multi Housing Association president. "If I now have to hire security guards to man my property in addition to maintenance people, that will create skyrocketing rents. And it will stifle new construction."

Property owners lament that city officials have not responded to landlords' concerns and advice. But Ellison said he and other officials have been listening.

Several major cities have adopted restrictions on landlords' consideration of rental applicants' criminal histories.