Tenants at apartments owned by Steve Frenz and Spiros Zorbalas and managed by the Apartment Shop, have dealt with unsanitary and unsafe housing for years. On May 1, tenants representing the more than 1,200 apartments owned by Frenz protested to call for a rent freeze.
Tenants at Apartment Shop have faced a myriad of poor conditions ever since Frenz supposedly bought several buildings from Zorbalas, a notorious slumlord.
Delia Simpson, who just moved out of an Apartment Shop building in South Minneapolis, recalled the problems during her eight-month stay. “We all talk about the roaches. They were constant… As soon as we were comfortable they came out of the shower, the windows, [and from] under the sink.”
Apart from roaches, in the winter Simpson and her family dealt with a cold apartment, and so many mice that dead ones caused the apartment to stink. When she moved in April, Simpson says she “left with nothing… I lost everything [because of] bed bugs.”
After being sued for conditions in one of his buildings, Frenz confessed, in court, that many of his buildings, including the one at the center of the trial, are co-owned by Zorbalas. In 2013, Zorbalas was prohibited from holding rental licenses in the City of Minneapolis.
Because of the fraud committed by Frenz in obtaining his licenses, the City of Minneapolis is in the process of revoking them, which could put potentially hundreds of families in jeopardy of losing their homes.
Frenz also attempted to defraud his tenants of their legal rights by fabricating fake leases in the building to claim that not enough tenants had signed onto the lawsuit.
In spite of continuing poor conditions, fraud being perpetrated upon them, and threats to their housing, tenants still must deal with rent increases.
Reyna has lived in her South Minneapolis apartment for 21 years. She said that ever since the building was acquired by the Apartment Shop in 2012, her rent increases every year at an alarming rate.
“In the past, our rent increased $50 every three or four years. For the last three years he has increased the rent $50 every year. In addition, in 2015, he started charging utility bills separately, which increased our rents again by $90-130 per month.”
On May 1, 2017, tenants from Apartment Shop and across this city will be rallied at the office of Apartment Shop to demand a rent freeze and better conditions in their homes, and to protest their treatment by the courts. Chelsea Hanvy, a tenant in Minneapolis, is tired of the abuse.
“Steve Frenz has been systematically preying upon and abusing low-income tenants for years. And yet, each year he wants to increase the rent. With that rent increase, the tenants see no reduction in the presence of pests, mold, security issues, or maintenance problems.
But because he is wealthy, White, and a business owner, he somehow gets preferential treatment, despite the fact that he has been subjugating and exploiting an entire class of people in this city for years and has admitted to actively defrauding the city by working with Zorbalas!”
In 2014, 48.3 percent of renters in Minnesota spent over 30 percent of their income on housing, a condition which Apartmentlist.com calls “cost burdened.” Despite the market’s failure to provide affordable housing for nearly half of all renters in the state, officials have chosen to not implement policies, such as rent regulation, to guarantee a basic level of livability and affordability for renters like Chelsea, Delia, and Reyna.
For information or to contact Jennifer Arnold, see her website at www.inquilinxsunidxs.org.