Thursday, July 9, 2015

Guest Author Shannon Moore Submits Blog Article About Havenbrook Homes, "Wall Street Infestation Threatens Twin Cities Tenants"

Creative stock photo (for visual interest) by John Hoff, blog post mostly
by Shannon Moore, St. Paul resident

This blogger is retired, but if somebody submits a "guest article," well, I can take five minutes to do some copying and pasting, right? So here is a guest article, bam.

Wall Street Infestation Threatens Twin Cities Tenants, by Shannon Moore
"This company is beginning to be like a bad virus to our community..."
- Google reviewer

"Havenbrook Homes has bought up hundreds of properties within the city of Atlanta, and become an absolute plague on our communities." - Google reviewer

"RUN!!!" - Google reviewer

 It's never a good sign when your landlord is compared to a devastating disease outbreak. A quick search of online reviews and the Better Business Bureau will give you a sense of the public's view of the Duluth, GA based investment firm, Havenbrook Homes...
Founded by ex-Morgan Stanley housing strategist Oliver Chang, Havenbrook came crashing onto the Twin Cities rental market late in 2013, buying up dozens of homes in North Minneapolis. They now own well over 200 homes across the metro area and surrounding suburbs, including a disturbing monopoly on the north side of Minneapolis. While this might have been a chance to revitalize neighborhoods affected by the recent foreclosure crisis, it has become a nightmare for many tenants and local residents. Poor customer service and property maintenance issues are just the tip of the iceberg. The experiences of Havenbrook tenants in Florida and Georgia are a worrisome look into our future here in the Twin Cities.

  Havenbrook has a nasty habit of purchasing a property and moving tenants in before obtaining the proper permits to do so. In my case, I unknowingly rented and lived in my St. Paul home for 6 months before I discovered that portions of the home (such as the furnace), had not passed inspection, meaning that Havenbrook had not obtained a Certificate of Occupancy prior to my move-in. This is a required document from the city stating that the house is safe and legal to live in. Havenbrook Homes collected over $8,000 from me while the property was considered vacant. When I contacted city officials at the Department of Safety and Inspections, I was told that I was living in my house illegally, and I risked being charged with a misdemeanor and/or ordered to vacate immediately.
Luckily, my house never caught fire or filled with carbon monoxide, and I wasn't kicked to the curb, but with the scale of a company with this many properties, their luck, and ours as tenants, is bound to run out. Sadly, most people are completely oblivious to the fact that they are living in an unlicensed and potentially dangerous house. It seems as if Havenbrook has weighed the pros and cons (profit vs tenant safety), and chosen the almighty dollar. 

  After doing a little research with the City offices in St. Paul and Minneapolis, it appears as if this practice is frighteningly common. In addition, Havenbrook has been accused of collecting non-refundable application fees from prospective tenants for properties that are not available. They are known for putting a "band-aid" on dilapidated houses, making them appear fresh and new on the surface, only to mold, crumble, peel, leak, and sag after the poor sucker has signed the lease. If you're lucky enough to get a maintenance worker out to your house, prepare for shoddy workmanship, and in my case, strange men appearing unannounced, and doors left unlocked while you're at work. 

Havenbrook Homes, Invitation Homes, and similar large investment groups are silently destroying the integrity of our neighborhoods, and will continue to do so until we, as renters and members of the community, demand better. Educate yourself on your rights as a tenant, and if you live in a Havenbrook home, I encourage you to contact me. I would like to document your experience, as well as help you find out if your property is up to code. Additionally, HOME Line is an excellent resource for tenant/landlord law and tenant's rights -
Shannon Moore, St. Paul resident
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