A pro bono trial team at Faegre Baker Daniels has prevailed against one of the Minneapolis largest landlords, Stephen Frenz, in a case about Frenz’s failure to properly maintain an apartment building housing numerous low-income families. The team obtained a victory Sept. 13 when a Hennepin Court referee’s interim trial order found that FaegreBD’s client, IX of Powderhorn Park, proved numerous violations of Minnesota Statutes and Code of Ordinance provisions related to rental housing, including rodent, roach and bedbug infestation, inadequate heat and security, and other violations of tenant rights.
The court also found that Frenz deceived the court in an attempt to get the lawsuit dismissed before trial, and by engaging in “a highly involved, well-orchestrated deception” amounting to “calculated business decisions designed to minimize Defendant’s expenses and potential liability.” As part of its remedy, the Court ordered that an administrator take over managing the building at the center of the lawsuit.
The pro bono team trial team—led by partner Michael Cockson, associates Adam Nodler and Bryan Washburn, and paralegal Barbara Pratt—represents a nonprofit tenant advocacy organization, IX of Powderhorn Park, a subsidiary of Minneapolis-based United Renters for Justice. In January, IX Powderhorn Park filed a building-wide tenant remedies suit in Hennepin County Housing Court against the defendant for failing to alleviate longstanding habitability issues in one of his many Minneapolis apartment buildings.
A front-page story appeared in the Star Tribune Sept. 15. Read article.
The case has been widely covered by the media in outlets including the Star Tribune, City Pages, KMSP-TV, and more:
- "Minneapolis puts Embattled Landlord Stephen Frenz on Notice," Star Tribune, Sept. 21, 2016
- "Revelation in Renters' Lawsuit Prompts City to Act," Southwest Journal, Sept. 21, 2016
- "Minneapolis Landlord Stephen Frenz Deceived Court Housing Referee Rules," Star Tribune, Sept. 14, 2016
- "Tenants in Minneapolis Protest Demand Better Living Conditions," KSTP-TV, Aug. 15, 2016
- "Embattled Landlord Plans to Sell Buildings," Star Tribune, Aug. 12, 2016
- "Landlord Frenz Could Face Record-Setting Sanction," Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, Aug. 12, 2016
- "Tenants Seek Over $1M in Sanctions," Star Tribune, July 26, 2016
- "Stephen Frenz, Notorious Minneapolis Landlord, is About to Face Judgment," City Pages, June 17, 2016
- "Landlord Trial Starts with Discussions of Cockroaches, Ends with Allegations of Fraud," Fox9 News, June 16, 2016
- "Landlord Stephen Frenz Backed by Spiros Zorbalas," Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, April 27, 2016
- "Minneapolis Forced Landlord to Sell Troubled Properties in 2012…but he May Still Own Them," Star Tribune, April 26, 2016
- "Minneapolis Renters Build Collective Power Despite Retaliatory Landlords," Twin Cities Daily Planet, April 20, 2016
- "Landlord Accused of Inventing Tenants for Unoccupied Apartments to Dodge Lawsuit," Star Tribune, April 14, 2016
- "Some Minneapolis Landlords Rack Up Housing Violations. Does Yours?" Star Tribune, April 8, 2016
- "Judge Orders Forensic Experts to Examine Landlord's Electronic Devices for Evidence of Fraud," Star Tribune, March 18, 2016
- "Big Minneapolis Landlord's Lawyers Bail Mid-Trial," Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, March 17, 2016
- "Minneapolis Landlord Accused of Fraud in Tenants Housing Court Trial," Star Tribune, March 17, 2016
- "Tenants Take Major Minneapolis Landlord to Trial," Star Tribune, March 12, 2016