Frequent rent hikes are nothing new to Minneapolis residents. But not every landlord has the gall to ask for $100 more a month for a leaky apartment with ceilings carpeted with mold.
Rene Yumbla, Marta Pacheco, and their two-year-old daughter Heidi live in a third-floor unit at 3018 Pillsbury Avenue in the Lyndale neighborhood. For the past year, a persistent black growth has cluttered the corners of their bedroom and living room ceilings.
Fortunately, the family hasn’t had any apparent reactions, but their daughter’s speech therapist, who is allergic to mold, now refuses to enter their home.
It’s not as though the rental agency, QT Properties, isn’t aware. Yumbla and Pacheco have complained by phone, by mail, and by flagging down maintenance workers in the hallway. Three weeks ago reporters from a host of TV, newspaper, and radio outlets toured this apartment, among others belonging to QT Properties with similar problems, and produced stories about the conditions there.
But the problem has yet to be fixed. Yumbla says a maintenance worker gave him some chemical spray once, which failed to kill the growth. Another time, maintenance came over to paint over the ceiling. That cosmetic cover-up lasted only a short time.
Faced with dwindling options, Yumbla and Pacheco called Minneapolis housing inspections. An inspector found water damaged walls and ceilings throughout the unit, as well as a non-working smoke detector, in violation of city ordinance. The report did mention “mold,” but only with the disclaimer that the black growth hasn’t been tested to confirm for certain that’s what it is.
QT Properties owner Jason Quilling said his people are currently in the process of inspecting every property he owns in Minneapolis. They haven’t gotten to Yumbla and Pacheco’s unit, but Quilling promised to have maintenance there on Tuesday to fix all outstanding problems. The roof of their building does need repairs, he says, and will receive them next year.
"But if someone doesn't report something for us to look at and view, we can't address the issue," Quilling says, steadfast in his claim that tenants living with housing violations simply don't report them. He says that even if certain apartments are shown on the news, he has no way of knowing which ones they are without inspecting his entire portfolio, as he is now doing.
The residents, along with Spanish language tenants rights group Tenants United, went to QT Properties' headquarters last Thursday to meet with him and discuss conditions. Quilling did not show. Instead, police were called.
Yumbla and Pacheco’s current lease expires at the end of May. On November 3, QT Properties gave notice that their rent would increase from $675 to $775 a month by January 1. If they did not agree and renew their lease by November 30, they would receive either a 30 percent rent hike for their remaining months or an eviction notice.
Yumbla and Pacheco have not yet decided what they will do.
“Everything I make, I put into this,” Yumbla said through an interpreter with Tenants United. “If [QT Properties] won’t understand or come to an agreement, we don’t know. It’s really cold. It’s hard to move now, especially with our daughter.”
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