In Saturday’s Northfield News: Court thwarts city’s rental code.
The city’s rental code, approved in October 2007, includes provisions that require landlords to adhere to standards including door width, window size and height of railings. Thursday’s ruling in the city of Morris vs. Sax Investments, says that no change of use occurs when an owner-occupied property becomes rental housing. And without a change in use, cities can’t require modifications to the structure, the court said. That’s a drum attorney David Hvistendahl has beaten for more than a year on behalf of client Ken Malecha.
“Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent that shouldn’t have been spent,” he said. Hvistendahl, who’s running for mayor, said he warned the city that it was inaccurately interpreting state law. “This just ends the stupidity on the part of the city,” he said.
In the April 14, 2007 Northfield News: State Laws Complicate Rental Rules.
According to state law, the “Building Code applies statewide and supersedes the building code of any municipality.” And given that McLellan, the Minnesota building code expert, believes a change in use doesn’t occur when a residential property changes from owner occupied to rental, such a requirement could prove unenforceable and be contested in court. McLellan wouldn’t offer an opinion on whether such an ordinance would be legal, saying he wasn’t an expert on rental housing, but did say “things could get interesting” if such a provision were enacted.
[Brian O’Connell, Community Development Director], however, has no such doubts, believing the city is well within its rights to require rentals to meet a more stringent standard.
See the Northfield Rental Code (39 page PDF) as approved by the City Council in October.
See the Locally Grown blog post and discussion thread from August: Rental ordinance on the path to approval.
See the Aug. 20 Council packet (PDF), pages 25-30, containing a summary and staff recommendations for approval of the rental ordinance from Brian P. O’Connell, Community Development Director; John Brookins, Building Official; Michelle Merxbauer, Housing manager; Maren Swanson, City Attorney.