City will focus on safety issues at tornado-damaged properties

Since the May 22 tornado struck north Minneapolis, City staff from across many departments have been working to make the area safe, repair and clean up damage, and support people affected by the storm. Residents, businesses, rental and other property owners, as well as thousands of volunteers have been working hard as well to clean up properties and make any necessary repairs.

Although there have been some safety inspections of the impacted area, more thorough inspections of damaged properties are needed for some structures. Beginning the week of June 13, Minneapolis housing inspectors will be contacting owners of rental properties that have had some damage so the City can conduct safety inspections as soon as is possible. The City needs to ensure that these dwellings still meet health and safety requirements of our rental code.

Inspectors will be checking for basic safety necessities, such as: working smoke detectors, water heaters and electrical systems, carbon monoxide detectors, egress windows and ventilation.

There are about 1,800 rental properties within the affected area, and although many rental property owners have already taken steps to clean up and fix their properties, some still have work to be done. In addition to the safety inspections, inspectors will also be looking at other housing code issues like clearing debris from yards and general maintenance of the property. Inspectors will notify rental property owners what repairs and clean up needs to be done to bring the property up to code.

The City can also assist rental property owners with financing cleanup to their properties, whether it’s clearing tree debris or construction debris. If a property owner cannot afford or does not want to hire a contractor to do the cleanup work, the City will hire a contractor to complete the work and pay the cost upfront. Those costs can then be assessed to the owner’s property taxes, which will allow them to make payments over five years.

Rental properties with the most significant damage will be inspected first, and those inspections will take about a week. Properties with less damage will be inspected in the coming weeks.

Owner-occupied homes

Inspectors will also be visiting owner-occupied homes, focusing on safety issues. Inspectors will notify homeowners what repairs and cleanup needs to be done to bring the property up to code. At this time, Inspectors will not be writing orders to clear debris at owner-occupied homes. Although there have been several volunteer efforts that have removed tons of debris from the neighborhoods, there are more opportunities for cleanup help in the coming weeks. The City is working with area neighborhood groups to organize "Clean Sweeps" specifically for the tornado recovery. Plans are still being made to schedule these neighborhood clean sweeps, but the first one could occur as early as June 18.

lthough inspectors will be out working door-to-door, the City wants to hear from anyone who is concerned about the safety or livability of their home or apartment. Renters can call 311 (612-673-3000 if calling outside of Minneapolis) if their home is not getting the necessary repairs, or if they have safety concerns about their residence. City housing inspectors are responding to those calls every day and making safety inspections. When people let the City know about problems with rental properties, City staff can require rental property owners to take steps to fix the problems that might exist.

Published Jun. 10, 2011