In a recent Star Tribune article, journalist Zoë Jackson made a passing mention that a City Council candidate had over 200 housing violations. Jackson presumably did that violation data search because a former tenant of Graham's “complained of management and livability issues” after renting from the candidate over a decade ago.
The candidate, Scott Graham, is running for Ward 7’s open seat. Southwest Voices looked into the specifics of these violations. The majority of the violations Graham incurred when he managed properties through his company, Uptown Realty. If and when the City issues violations for rental properties, the violations are addressed to a designated property manager, which is why Graham’s name is listed instead of Uptown Realty.
Graham’s 49 managed properties amassed 100 different types of violations over two decades. Graham also owned 12 buildings with his wife, Susan Davis, over the last three decades. Six of these buildings accounted for 52 violations.
Setting up rental licenses for these properties account for a lot of the violations, Graham said.
In a conversation with Southwest Voices about the violations, Graham said that a lot of the properties he managed were single-family homes that had not been rented before, and the standards for rental properties are stricter than buying a single-family home.
For example, a rental house with four steps to an entrance requires a handrail, but an inspector will not require one if you are buying or selling the house. Graham’s properties incurred 17 handrail violations between 2005 and 2015.
“Everyone who manages a significant amount of property is going to have a similar record,” Graham said.
Southwest Voices reached out to a local real estate agent who confirmed that it is “normal” to incur violations regarding things like installing smoke detectors and handrails when setting up a new rental license at a single-family home.
Most of the violations under Graham’s name involved how the buildings’ exteriors looked. Those violations included having to paint the exterior, replace doors, window glass, screens and roofs, as well as repairing fences and providing adequate address numbers.
Thirty one of the violations were nuisance-related such as hazardous trees and untrimmed grass and weeds on the alleyway or the sidewalk. Graham attributed many of those violations to tenant behavior. When a tenant doesn’t mow the yard or leaves a vehicle parked on the property, the property manager gets a violation notice.
Other violations he incurred appeared to be more serious because they affected the tenants’ livelihoods but may also be as simple as setting up a rental license. Graham’s properties had 86 quality of life violations, which included heat, plumbing, and “life safety” violations. Twenty-three of those violations concerned inadequate smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, which are often on the list of violations when setting up first-time rental properties.
Graham said that the grouping of violations around specific dates “indicates going through the proper licensing protocol” of setting up rental licenses. In our data collection, many of the properties did incur groupings of violations on specific dates.
Another 21 violations addressed plumbing issues, three of which occurred in a property he once owned, 2111 Colfax Ave. Julia Curran, a former tenant at 2111 Colfax Ave. remarked a neighbor in their building had to move out because their toilet froze solid. In response to this claim, Graham said “that never happened.” Graham no longer owns or manages this property.
To date, no one has sued Graham or Davis for living conditions within their properties.
Additional reporting by Melody Hoffmann