Minnesota Homeowners, ACLU Challenge Law Limiting Which Property Owners Can Rent Out Homes

| by Jonathan Wolfe

Winona, Minnesota homeowners and the American Civil Liberties Union are teaming up to fight a town ordinance that they argue strips homeowners in the area of equal property rights.

The ordinance being challenged restricts the amount of rental licenses granted to 30% of houses on any given block in the town. While the city of Winona argues that the ordinance prevents blocks from being entirely inhabited by often college-aged renters, homeowners say the policy illegally limits what individuals are allowed to do with their properties.

“To me it’s getting beyond what elected officials are supposed to do — starting to dictate who can rent, who can’t rent, who can do this, who can do that,” said Winona homeowner Ted Dzierzbicki. “They’re not the kind of laws that benefit and protect people. It’s more to do with somebody having a bug about something and trying to get a law towards it.”

The 30% block rental cap was instituted in 2006. It was the first law of its kind at the time. Three other towns have passed similar ordinances since. Before the rule was instituted, the Dzierbicki’s rented their house out for roughly $1,000 a month. This helped cover their $800 monthly mortgage payment that they now have to pay themselves.

Everybody has to look at these types of laws and realize at some point in time it’s going to affect them,” Dzierbicki said. “Some of these people that live close to the university that were behind this concept of trying to protect their neighborhood, when they pass on, what are their kids going to do with their house?  How are they going to get rid of their house?”

The League of Minnesota Cities supports the rule. A lower court upheld the ordinance and said it was a “good faith attempt to address real problems.” The Minnesota Court of Appeals says they will issue a ruling on the case within 90 days.

Sources: Watchdog, ACLU