The three lawyers on Faegre Baker Daniels’ Tenant Remedies Action Legal Team spearheaded a case against Stephen Frenz, Equity Residential Holdings (ERH) and the Apartment Shop, which together constituted one of the largest private landlords/property managers in the Twin Cities.
The team’s pro bono client, IX of Powderhorn Park, works to improve conditions for apartment-dwelling families living in south Minneapolis, most of whom are Somali or Latino. The case represented more than 1,000 tenants who had to live with rodents, roaches and mold in walls and ceilings, as well as unsecured entrances that encouraged crime. Calls for repairs and other remediation measures were ignored.
Meanwhile, Faegre’s pro bono housing volunteers were hearing of more and more tenants being evicted by Frenz/ERH. In late 2015, tenant organizers at IXPP, through Volunteer Lawyers Network and Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, sought representation for tenants residing in one of the south Minneapolis apartment buildings owned by Frenz/ERH.
The team initiated a building-wide tenant remedies action, but Frenz/ERH dug in and refused to fix the housing conditions, leading to two years of intense litigation in Hennepin County’s Housing Court. Eventually the Faegre team showed that Frenz and company had fabricated, destroyed, and concealed evidence, committed perjury, and perpetrated an elaborate fraudulent scheme.
The court eventually ordered the defendants to pay the tenants nearly $28,000 along with attorney fees. The defendants paid all judgments last September.
“People in those situations often don’t know their rights, let alone how to assert them,” said Faegre’s Michael Cockson. “It was satisfying to get some relief on their behalf.”
Other members of the legal team were Adam Nodler and Isaac Hall.