Judge lifts restraining order against Duluth rental rulesJudge Eric Hylden issued an order this afternoon denying a temporary restraining order in a case brought by a group of landlords who claimed the ordinance would make it difficult for poorer tenants to rent in certain neighborhoods of Duluth.
By: Peter Passi, Duluth News Tribune
A judge has lifted a temporary injunction that blocked the city of Duluth from implementing a new ordinance governing rental properties.
Judge Eric Hylden issued an order this afternoon, denying a temporary restraining order in a case brought by a group of landlords and would-be landlords. Hylden’s action nullifies an initial injunction issued at the plaintiffs’ earlier request March 14 by Judge John DeSanto.
The plaintiffs claimed the ordinance would make it difficult for poorer, largely minority, tenants to rent in certain neighborhoods of Duluth. But Hylden ruled that as property owners, the plaintiffs did not have standing to make claims on behalf of potential tenants.
“Unfortunately, the court does not believe there is any such thing as the vicarious assertion of another person’s constitutional rights,” he said.
Hylden also noted that the city’s ordinance was the product of a lengthy public process with considerable opportunities for public input.
“One cannot say that the city’s attempts to regulate housing density simply came out of the blue or were arbitrarily applied to these plaintiffs,” the judge wrote.
As for the issue of harm, Hylden said increased fees could have a significant impact on landlords but observed: “That harm pales in comparison to a city that cannot enforce any aspect of its own rental code.”
As a result of Judge DeSanto’s temporary restraining order, the city stopped processing all rental license applications and put enforcement operations regarding rental properties on hold, as well.
City Attorney Gunnar Johnson said that in light of the ruling, “We will work as quickly as possible to get the city’s rental licensing operations up to speed.”
He noted that the city has had to turn some landlords away while the injunction remained in effect.
“The biggest hardship I’ve been hearing is from landlords frustrated that they can’t get a license for a property,” Johnson said.
Judge Hylden stopped short of ruling whether either party’s case would prevail in court.
“It is simply too early for the court to handicap this race,” he wrote.
Assuming the plaintiffs continue to pursue their case against the city, a scheduling hearing is slated for May 27.
J.D. Feriancek, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, was out of town and could not immediately be reached for comment this afternoon.
Johnson said he was not surprised with Hylden’s ruling.
“We’re happy with the order,” he said. “We will participate in the scheduling conference in May and then see where the case goes next.”