Overview

Some properties generate frequent calls about Property Code violations and/or behaviors offensive to neighbors. These range from complaints about getting rid of garbage and junk in the yard to occupants and guests exhibiting criminal behavior. The properties may be owner occupied or rental properties; they may be single-family unit, a duplex, or an apartment building, or they may be a commercial property. Here are actions neighbors can take to address recurring problems. 

Talk it Out

  • If you do not feel threatened, visit and talk with the neighbor causing you concern
  • Enlist the help of your block club or district council
  • Call the landlord if it’s a rental property
  • Contact the Dispute Resolution Center; use this link
  • Call the Police for police issues (for police or medical emergencies always dial 911)
  • Call the City Information and Complaint line to report Property Code Enforcement matters, (651-266-8989) or fill out the Report An Incident form.
  • Call  Animal Control for animal control matters (651-266-1100).

Remember: Anonymous calls to the Police to come to an intersection are not as helpful as giving your name and providing a specific address that needs a response.

Call Code Enforcement

If the problems persist, call 651-266-8989.

Police Investigation

A Saint Paul Police Officer will do a preliminary investigation. Police first gather all the information they can about the property by checking City records, including the Police Department, Saint Paul Fire Department, Animal Control, Code Enforcement, and others. Police also will interview neighbors and any local cops.

If it’s an apartment building, Police may work with the Fire Prevention Certificate of Occupancy program. If it’s a commercial structure, Police work with the Department of Safety and Inspections.

Here are strategies Police may use to address the nuisance activity or close a property:

For owner-occupied properties
  • Code enforcement orders to correct or abate
  • Condemnation/vacant building registration
  • Criminal charges
  • Charging for excessive consumption
  • Sec. 45.04 nuisance abatement order
  • Sec. 617.80 nuisance abatement order (this law also applies to commercial properties and apartment buildings)
For rental one- or two-unit properties
  • Code enforcement orders to correct or abate
  • Condemnation/vacant building registration
  • Criminal charges
  • Charging for excessive consumption
  • Sec. 45.04 nuisance abatement order
  • Sec. 617.80 nuisance abatement order (this law also applies to commercial properties and apartment buildings
  • Certificate of Occupancy revocation
  • City Attorney-initiated evictions (also applies to apartment buildings)
  • City-initiated Tenant Remedies Actions (also applies to apartment buildings and vacant former dwellings)

Go to Court

The last step is going to court. In those cases, sometimes just having the inspectors and the police is sufficient testimony. There are times neighbors need to decide if the problem is serious enough to merit going to court as well; a community impact statement is always helpful.

Legal Options

The Saint Paul Police Department  has several legal tools it can use to address violations.

Criminal Charges

Saint Paul Police can issue criminal charges (tagging) on the first instance officers observe a violation.

Excessive Consumption Charges

If code inspectors make repeated visits to a property, the City will send a bill for excessive consumption of City services. If the bill is not paid, it will be added to the property owner's property taxes.

Nuisance Abatement Order (Sec. 45.04)

This City ordinance states no property owner shall allow a “nuisance.” A nuisance is anything that bothers or annoys more than just one neighbor. If the nuisance activity continues, after the property owner receives a notice to discontinue the unacceptable behavior, Police may charge a misdemeanor.

Nuisance Abatement Order (Sec. 617.80)

This Minnesota state law states that no property owner or occupant shall maintain or permit a nuisance. A nuisance is defined as anything that bothers or annoys more than just one neighbor. Under state law a court can take someone's property away from them for up to a year. Because this is such a serious sanction, the law requires two prior nuisance incidents, provable by clear and convincing evidence, then a City attorney issues a 30-day warning letter, then a third nuisance incident must occur after the 30 days is up, before bringing the case to court. This state law defines nuisance activity to include criminal activity such as drug dealing, prostitution, etc.

Certificate of Occupancy Revocation

If there is a single nuisance incident or documented excessive code inspection visits, a “Notice of Intent to Revoke” is mailed to the landlord. If the landlord cooperates and abates the nuisance, agrees to better lease management practices, and allows an interior inspection, the intent to revoke can be withdrawn. If the landlord does not cooperate, City Council may revoke the landlord's license to do business.

City-initiated Tenant Remedies Actions

The City can initiate a lawsuit when a rental property has outstanding code or nuisance violations. The first court hearing must be within 10 days. There are no jury trials. If the landlord admits the violations exist (or the Court so determines), the landlord is given a reasonable period to comply or faces fines. In rare cases the Court temporarily places the property in receivership, has the receiver make repairs, and charges costs to the landlord's property taxes. The City has a $200,000 repair fund to front the repair money, which gets replenished by property tax assessment against the owner.

Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services offers free legal assistance to low-income people in civil matters, including housing.  Visit their website or call 651-222-5863.

Last Edited: December 18, 2021