Judge tosses Duluth landlords’ lawsuit against city

Published: March 8, 2012 9:35:56 PM CST
Peter Passi, Duluth News Tribune

A court decision Wednesday upholds Duluth’s rental property ordinance.

Judge Eric Hylden granted the city’s motion for summary judgment, putting to rest a legal challenge by a group of local landlords.

The plaintiffs — Bradley Allen Johnson, Gary Kalligher and Peter Mattson — initially argued new rental policies enacted were discriminatory in that new fees stood to drive rents higher, effectively pricing people out of certain neighborhoods.

Assistant City Attorney Alison Lutterman suggested just the opposite was true, describing the ordinance as “an effort to make single-family residential homes more available and affordable to low-income people.”

She explained that by putting stricter rules in place, the city slowed the rampant conversion of traditional single-family homes into multi-tenant rentals, particularly in neighborhoods around Duluth’s college campuses.

The landlords also contended the ordinance should be thrown out for being vague. The ordinance has different requirements and license fees for operators of single-family versus multi-tenant properties. The suit took aim at a provision that said a family unit could include “a significant other” and went on to identify a significant other as “a romantic partner.”

J.D. Feriancek, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said the city’s ordinance put landlords in an untenable position, asking would-be tenants to divulge details about their personal lives and potentially causing them to run afoul of the Fair Housing Act.

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