Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Inside a (Former) Bertleson Property

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman

In the midst of chronicling the downfall of Paul Koenig and the vast empires of slumminess run by the likes of Khan and Moghul, some NoMi residents suggested that John Hoff and I take a look at a landlord by the name of Paul Bertelson (who also owns properties under a quasi-religious entity called Mission Inn Incorporated, and sits on the board of an organization called YouthWorks, whose website boasts of previous involvement with Urban Homeworks).  Bertelson at the time owned maybe two dozen properties that we knew of, and I drove around to examine the exteriors.  They didn't seem to rise to the same level of blight as other problem landlords, so blogging efforts were focused elsewhere.  (Although Bertelson did get "Jerk du Jour" honors over on Irving Inquisition)

Not long after that, we'd heard of tenants at a Bertelson property on the block who had serious problems with the electrical systems and other basic aspects of a house that you'd think would be up to snuff if there were a rental license.  Neighbors called the city and county and were assured that the issues would be addressed.  To his credit, Bertlelson even came to a few block club meetings in south Hawthorne this summer.  (Simply showing up to a meeting doesn't grant slumlords neighborhood or blogging immunity; just ask Mahmood Khan and McKinley.  But it's a step above Stephen Meldahl, that's for sure.)

Bertelson put on a good show for the Hawthornites, and people seemed somewhat satisfied with--although wary of--his responses to our concerns.  After seeing the interior of this house, a property once owned by Bertelson or his LLC and now lost to foreclosure, it may be time to rethink that stance.  Upon entering the house, one immediately sees...

Is that what I think it is?  Yes indeed.  A closed-off front porch.
The strangest, most pointless thing about this porch is that there is really no reason to close it off.  There is no closet space, there isn't even baseboard heat, and there is obviously no A/C.  In the wintertime, it's just going to be as cold inside as out, and the inverse would be true in the summer.  I'm honestly at a loss for what is either accomplished or even attempted by closing off this space.

The house had been trashed, with the washer, dryer, stove, and refrigerator all missing, as well as probably a fair amount of copper pipes based on the holes in the walls.  Then again, there was this hole too:

The laundry vent hole goes through three different walls.  Nice.
What should have been the living room area had a little nook carved away with a rod that went about three feet across and created a makeshift closet.  But speaking of holes...

Now, even though the house had a valid rental license on it until the foreclosure, it's of course unclear whether the damage shown here was done before or after the rental license was granted, whether it was done by angry problem tenants, copper thieves, or the owner.  What is clear though, is that the light switch and electrical sockets like the one below are not up to anything resembling code.

You don't have squatters or copper thieves stealing covers to electrical sockets or breaking in to poorly install light switches.  No, this most likely happened when Bertelson still owned the house AND a rental license was granted in spite of the dilapidated state of the place.  And across the street is another Bertelson property with a litany of neighborhood complaints against it.  (Care to guess who owns its neighbor?  Meldahl.  What a block.)  Here's what things looked like out back:

Someone attempted to toss shoes over the power lines.  Despite how low the lines were, they STILL couldn't connect, and the Elite Shoe Patrol Unit wasn't needed.
Time to give Bertelson and Mission Inn, Inc. a second look.


  1. I couldn't help but notice that somebody went out of their way to refute this posting of yours, and neglected to show the photos with all of the damage... (sigh)

  2. Though we have the major slumlords all over our radar--people and entities like Paul Koenig, Mahmood Khan, Dana D III, Keith Reitman, Bashir Moghul (who I've listed last because he has so much humility and likes it that way) it seems to me it's time for a tactical shift among the NoMi Revitalization Blog Network.

    YES we need to keep riding the big slumlords and that's a big job, riding them. But we need to set our sights on the minor slumlords who own, say, under a dozen houses.

    And then we need to go after the VERY minor slumlords who own, say, just ONE house, but it's a really, really bad house...gets raided by SWAT, people smoke crack there, that kind of thing.

    Do the math. How much does the slumlord get in profit? How much do the taxpayers pay for, say, the police services eaten up by houses full of criminal tenants? How much does a bad house cost the neighbors around in decreased property values, lost sleep, fear and stress and worry?

    I'm glad you posted this about Bertelson. But this post is bigger than Bertselson. This post may be an example of a tactical shift we need to accomplish: we have the big fish in our nets. Let's go after the mid-size and little fish, too.

  3. Time to ask a reasonable question:
    Why were you trespassing in that property?
    If it was unsecured you should have called the police. I fail to see what authority you have to enter that dwelling and take photos.

  4. @JNS, If you want to take that route, be my guest. I see your point, but I'd prefer a different strategy. I'd like to get farther upstream and address why we even have slumlords in NoMi in the first place - whether they own five properties or fifty. My belief is that is both an economic and a policy issue. I don't have a magic wand that will fix the economic issues facing the northside. However, over a year ago, we seemed to be at a crossroads when we uncovered the extent of the crumbling Pamiko empire.

    And from a policy standpoint, what of significance has changed in terms of rules for landlords or their enforcement? Certainly not enough. If anything, rules have been put in place that make individual rehabs of properties even more difficult for those who want to follow the rules. So I'd rather go back to the city and ask what they are doing to crack down on the ever-present problem of slumlords in NoMi.

    @I.I., you're referring, I assume to the Jordan Hawkman post where virtually everything they say about me and this blog is fabricated and twisted beyond the possibility of a reasonable discussion. Par for the course, I'm afraid.

    @Anon 11:37, I was most certainly not trespassing and my presence inside the property was entirely legal. Proper parties were contacted about the condition of the place. Borderline slander might be the main ingredient on other sites, but it won't fly here. Your topic is closed off from further discussion on NXNS.

  5. Maybe all you morons think like Jacki Cherryhomes, President of the City Council at the time, when she told a fellow member of MPRAC, who owned a few rental properties, in front of attorney Clayton Tyler - "My job is to put you out of business. The only entities that should be in the inner City rental business are non profits and the City". We took her down, to the amazement of everyone! Maybe Samuels better not wake the sleeping giant!!!! WE have been hibernating for a few years, but spring for alot of NoMi activists is coming - you just watch!

  6. The Minneapolis City Council will consider testimony from the public regarding proposed changes to the city’s rental license ordinance.
    Date/Time 2/14/11 1:30 PM
    Location Council Chambers, Room 317 City Hall

    Slumlords have had a devastating effect on NoMi.

    Here is a perfect forum for public concerns about lenient slumlord practices. I would hope that all community leaders and bloggers work together to rally public support for additional non-homestead oversight.

  7. Owning rental property is a hard job.
    I personally got into the biz before the the crash.

    I bought 4 homes in NoMi

    One at $50K and sold for $85k after a lot of updates and sold before the crash

    One that was valued at $120K and is now valued at $67,000 Ouch

    One that was valued at $80K and is now valued at $60,000

    One that I paid $125K for and is now valued at $88,500 and I still owe over $115K on it.

    The rents have plummeted - I'm sure because of the cash sale to those who buy a house for $15K invest 10K in repairs and then rent them out at a low rate yet the house pays for it self in 2 years. It this point I am doing all I can to be a good landlord yet it is very hard and I am losing money. I believe in NMPLS and am hanging on hoping values will return.
    Last fall a furnace went out in one of my properties and I could not afford to replace it, thank God for community action of Minneapolis. Not all slum lords want to be. but we do need to hold them accountable.

  8. Well Papa Ron, I think you've proved what I've known for a couple of years now: that even when well-intentioned people try to make a living from renting out single-family dwellings, the business model falls apart, and this is where the cognitive dissonance begins.
    Single family homes are designed to house a specified amount of people and require 24 hour maintenance of the building, yard, and outbuildings. As circular as this sounds, a home is a HOME, not a quick way for an absentee owner to get rich. A home investment usually works one of two ways: long-term, quality maintenance over decades means the building can properly shelter its inhabitants and, barring major external disasters like a toxic waste dump moving in next door, the structure will appreciate in value. The value of Papa's homes have sunk and that probably really sucks for him, but it would suck a lot less if Papa was living in the house for the next twenty years and not looking to unload it in the next year or two for profit. The other investment model is a quick investment return, when little to no money is invested in the structure. Sure, the landlord makes money but the building suffers, as does the quality of life for all neighbors in close proximity to the neglected dwelling, and eventually the building gets bulldozed. Papa Ron describes a third option, which really isn't an option because it is fiscally untenable in the short and long term--owning multiple homes that he doesn't live in yet tries to up-keep to the standards of option 1. Impossible because any profit made on rent goes right back into the aging structures, repairs from tenants, (let's not pretend that tenants are magical fairies that leave properties the same condition that they were when they moved in) and the mortgage: Holy Cow, that sounds less like a "business" and more like having a second, third, fourth mortgage stacked upon maintenance and upkeep for buildings you (arrrgh) don't even live in!
    No disrespect to Papa Ron here, but I don't feel anyone should own more than two homes in ANY kind of business scheme, and even then I'm skeptical. It just doesn't work for any of the parties involved, and Minneapolis would be smart to put a limit on this kind of feudalism (but it won't).

  9. Here's the latest unhappiness that Paul Bertelson is bringing into our world, allegedly.

  10. Looking into some recent unpleasantness I viewed this post again. Can you confirm the address where these pictures were taken was 213 N 23rd Minneapolis?


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