Court Judgments Against Landlords

HavenBrook Homes and Progress Residential

In December 2023, a Ramsey County district judge ruled on behalf of the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office that HavenBrook Homes and Progress Residential violated laws regarding lead paint removal. The lawsuit included allegations of tenants living with no heat, backed-up sewer systems, and doors and windows that did not close. The company is owned by Pretium Partners, a New York-based hedge fund — reportedly with $30 billion in assets — which has 600 single-family residential properties in the Twin Cities metro area.
It also was ruled that safety protections were not taken to protect residents from toxic lead paint as part of a systematic lack of upkeep of HavenBrook’s and Progress’s properties. The property management companies are now required to take safety precautions before disturbing lead-based paint in tenants’ homes and also hire a professional to check the companies’ lead-paint practices. Attorney General Keith Ellison said HavenBrook’s practice of charging tenants for unsafe homes “isn’t just shameful. It’s deceptive, fraudulent, and violates Minnesota law.”

Investment Property Group/Eat Street Portfolio

In October 2023, the Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit against Investment Property Group (IPG) that alleges violation of state laws by charging tenants exorbitant utility fees in the middle of their leases. As part of a partial agreement reached in November, IPG agreed to not use unpaid utility charges as a basis for an eviction action. “It’s hard for tenants to afford their lives when landlords start charging undisclosed fees during the middle of a lease,” said Attorney General Ellison. “I will continue to work toward relief for the scores of tenants who were charged exorbitant fees they never agreed to pay.  This is a positive step that provides immediate relief to many tenants while our lawsuit continues.”

The agreement applies to the following IPG properties:

  • Aldrich Avenue Apartments
  • Bolero Flats Apartments
  • Cambridge Towers Apartments
  • Central Park Manor Apartments
  • Creek Point Apartments
  • Grandview Terrace Apartments
  • Greenway Apartments
  • Knollwood Towers East and West Apartments
  • Lyndy Apartments
  • Maven Apartments
  • Wayzata Woods Apartments

According to details on the Attorney General’s website, the agreement  stems from an investigation that began in April 2023 after learning that Greenway Apartments, an IPG-owned property, notified tenants they would soon be charged utilities separate from their rent via a third-party billing company. Shortly thereafter, tenants found themselves facing excessive utilities charges, some of which totaled more than $2,000.

Isuroon, a local nonprofit that advocates for Somali women and girls, reported to the Attorney General’s Office that numerous Somali tenants at the Greenway Apartments had already paid thousands of dollars in questionable utility charges out of fear of being evicted, and that others were being evicted for not paying the charges. IPG, doing business as Eat Street Portfolio, LLC, had filed more than 30 eviction actions with a few months.

Minnesota law requires that landlords who rent out multi-family apartments with only a single utility meter (instead of a meter for each apartment) disclose several facts before charging their tenants for a portion of the building’s shared utility. The law (Minnesota Statutes section 504B.215  ) mandates that before rental applicants sign a lease, a landlord inform them of the building’s past utility costs so they can make an informed decision about whether to move in or not. The law also requires landlords to provide the exact formula used to apportion the building’s utility costs to each apartment and provide tenants with copies of the buildings’ bills so they can verify they are not being overcharged. Lastly, the law requires landlords to provide utility assistance information to tenants so that low-income renters can get help with their bills.

Housing Hub

The Attorney General’s Office settled with Housing Hub in March 2023, a Saint Paul-based property management company that illegally withheld amounts from tenants’ security deposits.  The settlement required the company to provide refunds to its tenants and change its security deposit retention practices to comply with the law.

According to the Attorney General’s website, under Minnesota law, landlords can withhold from security deposits only amounts reasonably necessary “to restore the premises to their condition at the commencement of the tenancy, ordinary wear and tear excepted.”  Instead, Housing Hub charged tenants (by withholding amounts from their security deposits) for items that needed to be replaced due to a tenant’s ordinary use of the home, such as charging tenants for professional carpet cleaning upon move-out, even if the carpet’s condition was not damaged beyond normal use.  Tenants were charged for replacement of smoke-detector batteries, light bulbs, and furnace filters, which are routine costs that Minnesota law prohibits landlords from shifting onto their departing tenants.  Housing Hub also told tenants they were  required to take apart and clean their windows, stoves, vents, and light fixtures in order to obtain their security deposit back without deductions.

The settlement required Housing Hub to pay the State $63,000, which was used to provide restitution to the company’s tenants who were illegally charged.

Landlord Steven Meldahl

In 2021, a landlord was required to pay a fine of $500 per renting families after a court found the landlord knowingly and in bad faith violated the rights of 267 tenants, primarily in North Minneapolis. The State’s claims included that Meldahl falsely represented to his tenants that he could prevent them from having their homes inspected by the City of Minneapolis and that he could charge them late fees greater than 8 percent, which are prohibited under Minnesota state law.

The court ordered Meldahl to fully comply with all existing City of Minneapolis inspection orders and not to make changes to his business structure in an attempt to avoid doing so. Tenants who testified at trial described poor living conditions — infiltration of squirrels, mice, rats, gnats; water damage that caused a ceiling to collapse — that they struggled to afford when Meldahl raised their rent repeatedly; the testimony is available via the Attorney General’s website on pages 4-9 of the court’s order.

The case was filed against Meldahl and his business, S.J.M. Properties. In 2019 , the court had granted the State’s request to have all of his properties inspected, which revealed 383 housing code violations at 27 of his properties.

Schierholtz and Associates

In  2021, Attorney General Ellison filed a lawsuit against Schierholtz and Associates, Inc. for charging the residents of Broadmoor Valley manufactured home park in Marshall unlawfully high late-rent fees and persistently failing to maintain the park and its roads to the standards required by law.

Filing a complaint as a tenant

Tenants in Minnesota who believe their landlord is violating their rights are encouraged to file a report with the Attorney General’s Office, or to call (651) 296-3353 (metro area) or (800) 657-3787 (Greater Minnesota).

For information about tenant rights, visit the Office’s online publication titled Landlords and Tenants: Rights and Responsibilities.

Our April 13 event will offer some action steps for Badass members to do collectively statewide. One idea could be to add to this as an ongoing list. If you are interested on that Badass team, please reach out to Crystal@womenspress.com