While most landlords in the city of Duluth do have Insurance on their properties it has become apparent that a handful of landlords do not. This situation has recently come to light because of the fire at the apartment building at 631 E. Third Street on August 11. One of the tenants died and the building has been condemned for human habitation. The landlord did not have insurance for the building and has struggled to take on needed repairs, causing the city to condemn the whole building .There were eight units in the building which now displaces these tenants most likely permanently.

Duluth Fire Chief Shawn Krizaj is urging the Duluth City Council to enact a new ordinance requiring landlords to insure their buildings. Krizaj said to The Duluth News Tribune "We have a shortage of affordable housing as it is. So, the main goal is to keep people in their homes while they're making needed repairs, or to make those repairs and then get them back in there as quickly as possible. When we have a home or a building that's been damaged by fire and it sits for five years, then we start getting other neighborhood complaints. We have issues with law enforcement calls to those properties. People squat in those places that are not safe to begin with. And often we see drug use there. It can spawn whole other sets of problems."

While most of these fires occur in single family homes or duplexes some have occurred in actual apartment buildings like the 2012 fire at The Kozy apartments that forced more than 50 tenants out onto the street and the Applewood Knoll fire in 2015 that left 44 tenants homeless. Both of those structures were uninsured as the Kozy still sits today boarded up and uninhabitable while the Applewood Knoll building was torn down in 2017.

Two Duluth City Councilors have voted to table the subject for now because they are worried that enforcing this on landlords would push up the cost of rent which would be harmful to many tenants struggling to pay their rent as it is. Barbara Montee, who is president of the Duluth Landlord Association went on to say it is a really tough time for landlords right now due to the pandemic as many tenants are facing financial difficulties and are behind on their rent. Although COVID-19 assistance currently is available to help people struggling to make the rent, those funds must be requested by the tenant, not the landlord.

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For most landlords they have to insure their buildings as part of financing options but some who own the buildings outright are the ones who are not insuring the property. The city is considering a proposed ordinance that would require landlords in Duluth to show their buildings are properly insured before they will be issued rental licenses.

Being someone who has rented an apartment for about half the time I have lived in Duluth, I always had my own renters insurance, but I never fathomed I could be in a building that was not insured. It is so sad when you hear of the fires and these families or individuals have lost absolutely everything when you could have renters insurance for around $100 a year to protect your belongings. This is definitely something to think about for many tenants out there.

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