Khan's license loss creates housing instability for 50+ families

TeCara Ayler is fighting to keep her Penn Ave. home. She has rented it from Mahmood Khan, who lost his rental license in November,  for almost three years. Photo by David Pierini

TeCara Ayler is fighting to keep her Penn Ave. home. She has rented it from Mahmood Khan, who lost his rental license in November,  for almost three years. Photo by David Pierini

By Kenzie O'Keefe | Editor

Notorious Minneapolis landlord Mahmood Khan lost his rental license in November, after years of battling the city, state, and even the Federal Supreme Court to keep it. 

Though the situation has been hailed by many as a victory against a slumlord, it has been deeply destabilizing for the over 50 families who currently reside in Khan’s 42 Minneapolis properties – almost all of which are located in North Minneapolis.

The loss of his license means Khan can no longer collect rent from the tenants still living in his buildings, which are mostly single-family homes. He says he plans to sell his properties and retire from his landlord responsibilities. “My licenses have been canceled and I’m working to transition out of that work. Hopefully I can fix the properties and put them on the open market,” he told North News in early January.

Late last year, tenants were told by the City that the situation required them to move out of Khan’s properties by Feb. 28, 2018. But after a court appointed administrator, Lighthouse Management Inc., was put in place in Dec. 2017, the vacate date was removed. In January it was announced that Lighthouse had selected North Minneapolis nonprofit Urban Homeworks to manage the properties for an undetermined amount of time, collecting rent from tenants and using it to make necessary repairs on the homes. 

Kristel Porter, Executive Director of the Cleveland Neighborhood Association, has doorknocked many of the affected properties in her neighborhood. Inside the 22 properties she says she has seen, she’s witnessed flooded basements and crawl spaces, broken windows with cold air rushing through, and space heaters in every room: “I’m talking about one thing after another. Horrendous living situations,” she said.

Paul Bauknight, Director of Urban Placemaking at Urban Homeworks, says the properties “run the gauntlet in terms of what type of shape they’re in.” They have replaced two furnaces already this month. 

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Ayler says she's dealt with lots of small issues in her house owned by Khan. "I didn’t know the house would keep constantly falling apart – little stuff here and there." Photo by David Pierini

Ayler says she's dealt with lots of small issues in her house owned by Khan. "I didn’t know the house would keep constantly falling apart – little stuff here and there." Photo by David Pierini

TeCara Ayler has lived in one of Khan’s homes on Penn Ave. N for nearly three years with her husband, four kids, and several pets. She’s a small business owner who wants to plant a community garden on the vacant lot next door this summer. She hopes she won’t be forced to move. 

“I’m going to try and stay here. Even though there’s stuff wrong with my house, I don’t feel it’s as bad as other people’s houses. It could be way worse. I like to be in a spot and kind of stay there,” she said. 

Ayler faults both Khan and the City for the situation that has arisen. “He needs to answer for what he’s doing and the city needs to answer for their bullshit. They allow him to be here and do it,” she said. 

She says the past few months since Khan officially lost his license have been stressful.“I just want my house. I want the tenants to be ok. I don’t be homeless. I’m tired of stressing constantly. I just want to be ok,” she said. 

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Finding new housing looks to be a nearly impossible task for Khan’s tenants. The vacancy rate for rental housing in the city is just 3.4% and average monthly rent is $1,279, according to City data. On top of that, many of these tenants experience barriers to housing like low credit scores and unlawful detainers on their records. These realities are reasons they ended up in Khan’s often above-market-rate, problem-filled properties in the first place. One Northside resident who rents a Khan property spoke up at a community meeting about the situation on Dec. 20. “It was a good thing because our credit was bad, but he charged us over,” he said.  

Patricia Gant and her husband, Maurice, shared their experiences living in a Khan property and fear of an uncertain housing situation during a resource meeting for Khan tenants at St. Olaf Church in January. Photo by David Pierini

Patricia Gant and her husband, Maurice, shared their experiences living in a Khan property and fear of an uncertain housing situation during a resource meeting for Khan tenants at St. Olaf Church in January. Photo by David Pierini

Ayler feels similarly. “He knew about me just getting evicted from another place, and he was ok with that. He gave me a place. I just didn’t know he was having all these issues with the City,” she said. Ayler aspires to be a homeowner but says her credit score has kept her from achieving that dream.

“Finding new house in this market is going to be one of the most challenging things for people,” said Karen Moe, who works for the City’s regulatory services department, at a meeting for tenants in December. Her department oversees rental licensing. 

The Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) and Community Action Partnership of Hennepin County (CAP-HC) have teamed up to try to ease this burden on affected families. The MPHA is providing emergency rental subsidies, paid directly to new landlords, of up to $500 per month for a year as Khan’s current tenants seek new housing. “It’s a balance between an amount of money that could make a real difference …and what we could afford,” said Jeff Horwich, communications manager for the MPHA. 

Community organizations have stepped up to try and ease the burden with legal aid and other resources as well.  On Saturday, Dec. 30, community members held a holiday party for Khan tenants at New Rules on Lowry Ave. N. In addition to dinner, families were gifted with giftcards from H White Men’s Room and manicures, and presents. Residents contributed pies and Kemp’s donated ice cream.

 “As we work to find housing, resources and legal aid for these families, bringing a little bit of hope to these families, reaffirming that we see them and the struggle and we care is very important,” said Danielle Tietjen, one of the event organizers.

Chris Brown, a Neighborhood Revitilization Associate with Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, also helped organize the holiday event. He cautions against seeing the Khan tenant situation as an isolated occurrence: “There are numerous other families on the Northside dealing with predatory landlords,” he said.

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TeCara Ayler takes a quiet moment to collect herself after becoming overwhelmed with emotion at a resource meeting for Khan tenants in mid-January. "Day to day it’s stressful. You don’t know what’s going to happen," she said. Photo by David Pierini

TeCara Ayler takes a quiet moment to collect herself after becoming overwhelmed with emotion at a resource meeting for Khan tenants in mid-January. "Day to day it’s stressful. You don’t know what’s going to happen," she said. Photo by David Pierini

For now, Khan’s tenants wait in limbo without a clear answer about when and if they’ll have to leave their homes. Bauknight says Urban Homeworks will manage the properties as long as Lighthouse is the administrator of them. “How long it goes is controlled by the administrator, the courts, and the city, not by us,” he said. 

Jim Bartholomew of Lighthouse says the city is in the driver’s seat. “The vacate was a result of a lack of license. The administrator has a provisional license. The city controls that vacate date.” 

"There is no current vacate date, but pending the next steps for the administrator, one may be set. If one is set, we will continue to work with tenants throughout the process," said Casper Hill, media relations coordinator for the City.

Kenzie O'Keefe