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Rochester landlord fined $1,000

Infractions involve disrepair, trash, animal waste

CORRECTION RAN SATURDAY (2/26/05)

A story on Page 1B Thursday mischaracterized the building code violation citations given to a Rochester landlord. The landlord, Jarret Ruud, who owns an apartment building at 817 First St. S.W., was cited for unlawful storage of junk on a porch, for leaving a garbage container on the city boulevard and for leaving bags of garbage and a garbage container on the city boulevard. Additional complaints listed in the article were complaints neighbors had that were not formally cited by the Building Safety Department.

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By Jeffrey Pieters

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jpieters@postbulletin.com

In the first test of a seven-month-old Rochester city ordinance addressing chronic housing code infractions, city council members showed they're not afraid to hand down a penalty.

Jarret Ruud, a Rochester landlord who owns a property at 817 First St. S.W., was fined $1,000 and subjected to a six-month, city-supervised probation period during which any further infractions could result in suspending or revoking his rental license. His fine could be reduced to $750 if he attends an upcoming education seminar for landlords.

Ruud's property, a two-story house in the Kutzky Park neighborhood, was cited for violations including trash left outside and on the porch, excessive animal waste in the yard, and property being left in disrepair.

Those infractions -- minor in the eyes of some who spoke at Wednesday's hearing -- are in fact some of the earliest indicators of deeper problems to come, neighbors said.

"The issue of crime goes much deeper than just dealing with crime," said Lonnie Heimer, a Kutzky Park Neighborhood block captain who lives nearby, at 902 First St. S.W.

Public health and safety issues "seem to go hand in hand" with crime, Heimer said.

Rochester police logged a dozen calls to the apartment building's address in the 12 months ending Jan. 21, but Ruud and some of his former tenants, evicted in the wake of the complaint against Ruud, said a few of those were related to crimes committed in the street by other people. None of the crimes was very serious.

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For comparison, a neighboring apartment, at 815 First St. S.W., had 46 police calls during the same 12-month period, including five related to drug crimes, four disputes, a domestic problem and a harassment incident, police records show.

Ruud has replaced his former tenants with new ones -- two young women whom neighbors described as conscientious residents who have poured their hearts into fixing up the property and are pondering opening a day care center there.

Council members voted 4-3 on Ruud's punishment. Of those who voted against it, a few said they were reluctant to impose sanctions that could adversely affect those new tenants.

"Personally, I don't think we should kick those new tenants out," said council President Dennis Hanson. "I would rather see him spend that (fine) money on the property."

Council members Jean McConnell and Pat Carr also voted against the sanctions.

But the majority seemed to believe it was important to set a good precedent in the first exercise of the new ordinance.

"I think we need to make sure we are sending a strong message -- bad management won't be tolerated," said council member Ed Hruska, who said he also owns rental property in Rochester.

Ruud said he felt he was being "singled out" unfairly when other nearby properties seemingly have more negative effects on the neighborhood.

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Ruud owns or co-owns eight other rental properties in Rochester. He said he's unaware of problems at any of the others.

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