The city of Duluth has deemed St. Regis Apartments, owned by Eric Ringsred's business Temple Corp., uninhabitable for human use due to lack of heating.
The Duluth Fire Department's Fire Marshal Sandy McComb said the boiler used to heat the building needs a substantial amount of work. The building has 18 units and is located on the 100 block of Second Avenue East in downtown Duluth.
"At this point, owners are trying to decide what's the next course of action that will be the best for the building and a permanent solution for heat," she said.
In October, the families and renters living in the apartment's 10 occupied units — renters on subsidized housing occupied four of those units — were notified that they would have to move out in a week in order for temporary fixes to made to the old boiler while a new system was put in place, said Miles Ringsred, the son of Eric Rinsgred.
He said that after tenants were notified, the fire department and Comfort Systems became involved in further inspections, at which point the heating system was deemed unsafe to have on.
As of Tuesday, two units were still occupied, but Miles Ringsred said they were helping to relocate them.
Temple Corp. was also moving forward with the changes needed to make the building habitable — a process that could take months and will involve mechanical and electrical engineer analysis. However, Miles Ringsred said the option of selling the building isn't necessarily off the table.
"At this point we've already bought boilers," Miles Ringsred said. "We've been moving forward with this. Now that it's condemned that significantly diminishes the value."
He said they have spent $10,000 on two recently purchased boilers. Another $80,000 is likely needed to install the boilers.
On Monday, a mother of two filed a petition in Sixth District Court against the St. Regis Apartments building owners and property manager for a lack of heat since she moved into the unit in September 2019, according to court documents.
"I complained to my landlord last winter and they made no repairs and I had to heat with a space heater, which cost me several hundred dollars in electricity," the plaintiff, Talia Bird, wrote in the petition.
Bird wrote that she still needs to find a place to live and requested emergency relief from the court.
In response to the lawsuit filed, Miles Ringsred said there's not much to say beyond it being a matter of someone wanting to be somewhere warm and safe.
"It's so far the most un-confrontational legal action I've been a part of," he said "We're all trying to cooperate and work together."
The heating issue isn't new for tenants.
Connor Slawson lived in the building from the spring of 2016 to 2017. From the time he moved until the time he left, neither the oven nor the radiators worked properly.
"Most of the time it was around 40-60 degrees in there," Slawson said. "We had to use space heaters in the rooms we used the most. We put up curtains across every doorway to help keep the heat in."
After bringing the heating issue up with management, Slawson said they sent someone to bleed the radiator in his unit, meaning they would release air trapped in the system. The heat would work for a few hours after that. Meanwhile, the oven never functioned properly, taking over three hours to preheat.
"They ended up taking our deposit to pay for it when we left," he said.
According to the St. Louis County land explorer, the building has accumulated more than $51,000 in delinquent property taxes since 2018.
Legal Aid Service of Northeastern Minnesota as well as the Housing Redevelopment Authority of Duluth have been working with tenants to find places to live.
The apartment building is on the same block as the Kozy building, which was formerly owned by Eric Ringsred.