Minneapolis, MN -- (ReleaseWire) -- 10/15/2012 -- Tenants rights is an area that is as challenging to understand, as it is to enforce. What does "quiet enjoyment" really mean? What is the difference between "meeting code" and "fit for intended use"? Why does the law allow landlords to pick and choose which parts of the lease they will enforce, but insist that the tenant be held accountable for it all? What do you do when the landlord tells you at the move out walk through that everything is ok, and then ends up keeping part of your security deposit?
These and other questions will be answered by Andy Dawkins, Spencer Blaw and Peter Brown at a workshop on October 23 at Joule, 1200 Washington Ave S in Minneapolis from 9a-4p. The full-day, interactive workshop is designed to educate tenants on how to deal with landlords who are not interested in doing the right thing. The $35 fee includes lunch, a cd of materials and a copy of the attorney general's handbook on tenants rights.
The inspiration for this workshop came from my experience with two local landlords who counted on me not knowing how to respond to the things they were doing. The material on the CD includes the documentation I accumulated from them that shows a clear pattern of arrogance on their part. For example, the manager at the Sentinel property didn't deny coming into my apartment while I was not home and stealing form me, and Sentinel refused to even acknowledge I existed. I was at the Sidal property for less than a month when I started to get intimidating letters from their lawyer after I confronted them on their lack of honesty about the condition of the property. Both places retaliated when I initiated a rent escrow action. With the Sidal property, I had my own list of questions I wanted to ask when I moved out, but they refused to let me ask them. There's much more that is well documented, including the checks Sidal wrote to pay for me to move out to keep what they did to me out of court.
The resources are lacking. Ramsey County says it's not their problem. My state legislators wouldn't give me the time of day. The city managers of both properties - St. Anthony and New Brighton - both refused to give me the time of day, even though municipalities have regulatory authority over manipulative and deceptive business practices. Lori Swanson says this is a "personal" issue and refuses to explain why it is not a legal or a business issue, by virtue of the lease. If I went to court, the court holds me to the same standard of conduct as if I were an attorney. I make too much money for legal aid, and not enough to hire an attorney. If I went to court and got a judgement, I would bear the burden of collecting it. (If the landlord got a judgement against me, they could turn me over to a collection agency).
Andrew J. Dawkins started his law practice in 1980 working out of a storefront on University Av. in St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood representing tenants for the St. Paul Tenants Union. In 1987 he was elected to the Minnesota legislature and chief-authored a number of bills to improve housing conditions and increase the rights of tenants. In 2002 Mayor Randy Kelly appointed him Director of St. Paul’s Neighborhood Improvement Dept. where he used the laws he wrote to hold landlords responsible for providing up-to-code housing.
Spencer R. Blaw is a consultant on landlord tenant law, affordable housing, discrimination free housing as well as health education and training. Spencer has also worked for the Powderhorn Residents Group where he was liaison to 8 multifamily housing coops. At the Minnesota Tenants Union Spencer was Executive Director and sole staff person. Spencer also was a Tenant Advocate for Project 504 in Hennepin County Housing Court and worked as an advocate and organizer for the St. Paul Tenants Union.
Peter W. Brown, past President of the Minnesota Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, is a Board member and legal resource to the Minnesota Tenants Union, working with tenants for over three decades to advance the human right to housing, focusing on real-life challenges of housing code enforcement, equity, discrimination, and displacement via public action and foreclosures. He has chaired three all-day Continuing Legal Education (CLE) programs on the struggle for tenant rights, community/criminal justice system issues, and civil liberties after September 11.
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It is a consulting practice that helps to build the capacity of individuals and nonprofit organizations in the metro area through workshops, networking and other means to make the community a better place.