comScore

Accused slumlord Stephen Frenz says advocates, reporters conspired against him

Stephen Frenz says it's his tenants' fault that they lived in roach-infested apartments without heat.

Stephen Frenz says it's his tenants' fault that they lived in roach-infested apartments without heat.

Stephen Frenz is one of Minneapolis’ most prominent landlords, owner of more than 1,000 units.

A lot of those units are overrun with roaches, bedbugs, and mice, according to the more than 600 housing code violations for which Frenz has been cited since 2013.

Last year, the tenants of Frenz’ apartment building at 3057 14th Avenue S. finally decided to band together to sue him for refusing to turn the heat on the winter, failing to treat the building’s roaches, letting the broken front door lock go unfixed while tenants’ homes were looted, and neglecting the plumbing to the point that toilets on the basement floor over-flooded with fecal matter.

But before they could file suit, the majority of the tenants at 3057 had to get on board.

In an attempt to prevent the tenants from meeting this requirement, Frenz stocked three empty apartments with some sparse furniture and clothes in order to make them look lived in. The ruse was poorly executed, however, and Frenz was soon found out when utilities records showed that the units were in fact vacant.

The suit was successfully filed and Frenz met his tenants in court.

As the trial continued, Frenz privately emailed members of the Minneapolis City Council to lament his tarnished reputation. In one leaked letter, Frenz blamed housing advocates with IX Powderhorn Park and HOME Line, the Volunteer Lawyers Network, and two “irreverent” Star Tribune reporters for dragging him into a “full blown conspiracy.”

“Let there be no doubt what was intended here,” Frenz wrote on September 1. “Ayn Rand couldn’t have written it any better herself.”

Frenz cast himself as a hardworking landlord who slowly built up his portfolio through the past 25 years, operating his buildings in such a way that he decreased crime wherever he was.

The current lawsuit was only a problem because meddling housing advocates antagonized his tenants against him, Frenz said.

“The heat issue was resolved within hours by simply turning up the boiler,” Frenz wrote. “This issue would have been resolved immediately upon notice had anyone bothered to call us.  Instead, they suffered without sufficient heat so they could successfully file their lawsuit. The infestation issues were not for a lack of effort on our part, but due to the lack of resident participation in properly preparing for exterminations and keeping their apartments in a clean and sanitary condition.”

Last week, a court referee officially admonished Frenz for playing games with the legal process by staging apartments. Frenz’s testimony was utterly unreliable, the referee ruled.