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Judge dismisses Bemidji landlords’ claims

BEMIDJI – A district court judge dismissed claims from 13 landlords who argued the city owed them reimbursements following a recent change in the rental ordinance.

The decision by Judge John Melbye came late last week. The landlords’ claims in conciliation court totaled $4,417.56 including filing fees.

The landlords, who are all members of the Headwaters Landlords Association, argued in court Sept. 10 that the city owed them for the time they still had on their three-year inspection-based permits after the new system took effect Jan. 1, 2012.

The new system requires landlords to get a license every year, with inspections every two years. City attorney Al Felix argued that the old system was ineffective because many landlords had a permit without getting an inspection for more than three years. He also said the fee was for the inspection itself, and it was incorrect to ask for an amount of money based on how many months were left on the permit.

In a memo provided by the city, Melbye ruled that conciliation court was not the proper venue to make the claims, and that the landlords failed to show that they had a contract with the city to begin with. “Plaintiffs argue that the City should not have done what it did, and that this Court should use its inherent equitable powers to correct this wrong,” Melbye wrote. “Plaintiffs would have to prove that the ordinance in question was improperly enacted or that it is unconstitutional. This is the type of matter that should be brought under the Declaratory Judgments Act in district court.”

Terry Duy, secretary of the Headwaters Landlords Association, said he was not aware the claims had been dismissed when reached by phone Monday. He declined to comment further.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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