It was slumlord Keith Rietman who taught me the motto "I'd rather pull a curtain than pull a permit," but it turns out Rietman can't hold a candle to Paul Bertelson, the master of magical repairs and renovations which manifest without the costly burden of official paper...
As this blog documented yesterday, Bertelson purchased 2818 Colfax Ave. N. in 2009 for a mere $10,500. At the time of the purchase, according to old real estate data that an oh-so-anonymous reader kindly provided to JNS blog, the house had "possible freeze damage and mold." The heating system was also "forced air" which was fueled by "natural gas."
On February 14, 2014, when a fire claimed the life of five children in the second and third story apartment, baseboard electrical heating was being used. Unknown if it was used throughout the house or ONLY on the second and third stories, but it seems unlikely it was some kind of half-and-half hybrid of forced air downstairs and baseboard electrical upstairs. Most likely baseboard heating was being used through the whole house.
In fact, this blog has photos purportedly of the actual baseboard heaters which were provided by a reader claiming to be a former tenant of Bertelson in the fatal upstairs unit. One of those photos is at the top, and here's the other.
OK, so any water damage and mold damage required repair, right? Wouldn't that require a permit? Certainly putting in baseboard electrical heaters requires a permit, doesn't it?
OK, but check out the complete record of City Of Minneaplolis permits pulled during ownership by Paul Bertelson.
2818 Colfax Ave N
|BUILDING OVER THE COUNTER|
|1084176||BOTC||01/13||Done||1200.00||Mission Inn Minnesota Inc.||N/A||N/A||$70.38|
|STREET USE PERMIT|
|1028378||BSU||04/23||Done||Nitti Roll Off Service||N/A||06/07/2011||$71.80|
The permit at the top is for window installation; three windows in three pre-existing frame openings. The second permit was for a dumpster out in the street. You would think that while inspecting this home as a rental somebody would have NOTICED the baseboard heaters had magically appeared without a permit being pulled slumlords routinely get away with this kind of thing without fine, penalty or prosecution.
(ADDENDUM, MARCH 4: Electrical permits are issued by the State of Minnesota, not the City of Minneapolis. JNS blog is still trying to determine whether any notation would appear on the city's website for a state permit and installation of baseboard heaters)
Worst of all, the father of the deceased children Mr. Troy Lewis claims those baseboard heaters weren't working and that's why he used the space heater. Well, geez, what if those heaters weren't hooked up properly? Did an electrical inspector ever even LOOK at them? Wasn't that kind of inspection REQUIRED? Or did that happen during the RENTAL inspection?
Inspection of baseboard heater installation is required by city and/or state ordinance. The ordinance is intended to protect people from burning up in fires caused by (for example) badly installed, improperly wired baseboard electrical heaters. The five children who died, the two who were injured, and Troy Lewis himself who was reportedly injured while trying to rescue his children were in the class of people intended to be protected by the ordinance and the injuries and deaths were (quite arguably) probably caused by violation of the ordinance.
You know what I call that? I call it "negligence per se" if all these facts hold together the way these facts appear right now.
But Bertelson isn't the only villain here. The previous owner of 2818 Colfax Ave. N. was Gregge Johnson, yet another notorious slumlord. Though the property was sold in 2009, no permit had been pulled since 2005 when Johnson pulled a permit to replace the stoop.
Now riddle me this: What does a permit to repair a stoop, a permit to install windows, and a permit for a roll off dumpster all have in common?
I hope that wasn't too hard. I hope most of my readers knew the answer right away: all these activities are visible on the OUTSIDE of the property. Slumlords who would rather "pull a curtain than pull a permit" can't hide OUTSIDE repairs/renovations from city inspectors who might be driving around, so slumlords routinely pull permits for OUTSIDE repairs/renovations while "pulling curtains" for inside activities.
And they get away with it. Year after year, decade after decade, slumlords get away with this kind of thing. Gregge Johnson lost rental licenses but who ended up owning at least one of his buildings? Paul Bertelson, another slumlord. One might ask what was the POINT of taking Johnson's rental licenses if the buildings themselves just ended up in the hands of other slumlords? Indeed, just based on casualty figures, it would appear Gregge Johnson was BETTER than Paul Bertelson.
Five dead children should be a wake-up call to public officials about the negligent habits of slumlords but this blog fears nothing meaningful will come from those deaths. The slumlords, who "would rather pull a curtain that pull a permit," will keep right on slumming. It was almost exactly one year ago when this blog wrote about a fire in a hovel owned by slumlord Mahmoud Khan and asked the following:
WHEN IS THE CITY OF MINNEAPOLIS GOING TO TAKE THIS BASTARD'S RENTAL LICENSES!???? WHEN CHILDREN DIE!!???
But now I'm convinced children will die and NOBODY will lose a rental license.
JNS blog has a question for Paul Bertelson, who loves to wrap his wolfish slumlord activities in the fluffy white lambskin of Christiany do-gooderism, for you, Mr. Bertelson, I have the following pointed question:
WHAT PERMITS WOULD JESUS PULL?