A landlord with a history of code violations, civil penalties and tenant complaints dating back more than a decade pleaded guilty this month to renting rooms without a license in his Minneapolis home.
The city attorney’s office charged Mohammed Shahidullah, 76, last fall after 5 INVESTIGATES began asking questions about how he was responding to complaints from tenants who documented the unsafe conditions of the street property Erie.
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Now some of these former tenants and housing advocates are questioning the impact of the misdemeanor conviction, as it carries no jail time and allows Shahidullah to perform community service instead of paying a fine of $278.
‘I think they have a lot more ammunition they can use to issue tougher penalties and I don’t think they’re taking advantage of that,’ said Jaime Steffenson, a former tenant who moved out of a room in the house. last October. .
Records show Shahidullah ignored previous orders to vacate the premises in January, June and August last year. He did not respond to requests for comment this week.
“It makes me very upset that someone could go against all court orders,” Steffenson said. “There are victims in this case. This is not a victimless crime.
The Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office did not comment on Shahidullah’s sentencing, but said the former tenants received three months of tenant relocation assistance when they moved in last fall.
Shahidullah is one of just a dozen people who have had criminal convictions for violating Minneapolis housing laws since 2017, according to data obtained from the Minnesota Court Information Office.
Before indicting Shahidullah last year, a spokesperson for the Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office told 5 INVESTIGATES that “filing a criminal case is not a primary enforcement tool.”
Mary Kaczorek, chief counsel for Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid disagrees with this strategy.
“I think the city needs to bring in more of these cases,” Kaczorek said. “They need to be bolder in how they negotiate these plea deals. I don’t think that’s the message I was hoping to send with this case.
Housing advocates say they still hear a steady volume of health and safety complaints from tenants in the Twin Cities, but few of those cases lead to criminal charges against landlords.
“As a tenant advocate, what I want are tools in my toolbox,” Kaczorek said. “But I am a lawyer who represents tenants. The city is much better equipped, they have more resources than we do, and it’s up to them to make sure the houses in this city are livable and safe for renters.