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Nuisance property notification

Published (2/18/2010)
By Mike Cook
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Dan Vieths and his wife had to file bankruptcy after a property deal went south.

Vieths and Rep. Mike Obermueller (DFL-Eagan) are working to make sure nobody else suffers the same fate.

Sponsored by Obermueller, HF2176 would require a seller of real property to disclose if it has been identified as a nuisance property.

“I call this the seller disclosure statement bill,” he said. “Unless there’s out-and-out fraud, you’re unable to protect against things you’re not informed of.”

Heard Feb. 15 by the House Civil Justice Committee, it was held over so all sides could work together to reach consensus. It has no Senate companion.

Vieths purchased a Minneapolis apartment building in 2004. “Prior to closing, many calls were made to the city, utility companies and so forth. No work orders or special labels showed up in any research done by us or our realtor,” he said.

After taking possession, he was informed by the city’s Problem Property Task Force that the city was two weeks away from taking the building from its previous owners because it was labeled as one of the city’s worst in terms of drugs, prostitution and other criminal activity. Additionally, a $5,000 unfilled work order was now his responsibility.

“After consulting with multiple attorneys, we were given the same reply by each: that we had no recourse,” Vieths said.

It took 18 months to purge the building of the criminal element, but the cost to do so wiped out the Vieths’ finances.

Christine Berger, vice president of governmental relations for the Minnesota Association of Realtors, spoke against the bill.

Among her concerns, if a nuisance is a material fact it is already covered by current law, a two-year statute of limitations now exists and the bill’s definition of nuisance is quite broad.

“The new disclosure this bill is suggesting would be precedent setting in that it creates a new list in statute of what is a material fact,” she added. “Right now it just says all material facts have to be disclosed. … When you start a list, where do you stop the list?”

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