Timeline and History of the Sky Without Limits Community
Visit the Press Coverage page for a complete historical background.
The City of Minneapolis takes action against Spiros Zorbalas, revoking his rental licenses in 38 properties across the city after 2,131 housing violations over five years. Zorbalas and his wife are banned from holding a rental license or an interest in a rental property in the city of Minneapolis for 5 years.
Steve Frenz notifies the city that he and his wife have purchased the 38 properties from Zorbalas. In this portfolio are the 5 buildings in the Corcoran neighborhood of Minneapolis.
LLCs based in Delaware are created to take ownership of the properties where Zorbalas and his wife maintain a majority ownership interest leaving Steve and Jennifer Frenz with the minority interest. Frenz's management company, The Apartment Shop LLC, is hired to manage the properties. Zorbalas is given a 50% interest in the management company.
Frenz applies for rental licenses not admitting that Zorbalas maintains a majority interest in the LLCs and the properties. Repeatedly pressed by the city attorney's office, Frenz assured the lawyers that he and his wife, Jennifer Frenz, were the sole owners of the properties. "Zorbalas is not involved," he told Assistant City Attorney Lee Wolf. Frenz told Wolf that Zorbalas had been "removed from the equation," that Steve and Jennifer Frenz were the only shareholders, and that the city should view that as a gift. LLC paperwork filed with the Delaware Secretary of State show Zorbalas’ signature. The city received a version of the filings without Zorbalas' signature.
Later legal proceedings concluded Frenz at the time "knowingly misrepresented, omitted, and failed to provide complete, honest, accurate applications and disclosures related to the corporate ownership interests."
City data analyzed by the Star Tribune shows that Frenz amassed 453 housing violations between 2013-2016. City records show that Frenz accumulated more housing violations than any other landlord of large apartment buildings in Minneapolis over the years looked at. Around 81 percent of the violations were issued in 2014 or later.
Tenants in Frenz properties begin to reach out to advocates, including Inquilinxs Unidxs por Justicia (IX), about problems in their buildings such as no heat, water leaks, unsecured doors, and pest infestations including mice, bed bugs, and roaches. Hearing eachother's stories tenants begin to connect the dots about their common situation across buildings owned by Frenz.
Families in 3057 14th Ave S, another Frenz/Zorbalas property, begin organizing for repairs in their building to better the conditions.
Families in the 5 buildings in Corcoran begin asking for repairs and exercising their rights.
Families in 3057 14th Ave S file an Emergnecy Tenants Remedies Act (E-TRA) lawsuit to get repairs in their building. Tenants said that they faced lack of heat in the winter, infestation with roaches/bed bugs, and a broken front door lock they said resulted in robbery.
According to a pest control company, Steve Frenz asks them to re-send an invoice and remove the word "vacant" written next to several units in 3057 14th Ave S.
The 3057 14th Ave E-TRA is heard in court. Frenz lawyers argue a procedural point that not enough tenants are represented to have a valid TRA and file a motion to dismiss the case. Frenz, through his lawyers, submits leases, rent income info, and other evidence to the court to support their claim. Frenz signs an Affidavit and submits it to the court saying that additional units in the building are occupied.
Tenants from 3057 14th Ave, who know their building and who lives in it, say that the units are not occupied. Their lawyers submit evidence challenging the leases, indicating they were fabricated. Tours of the units reveal them to be generally empty and appear to the attorneys to be staged to looks as though they are occupied.
Frenz's lawyers choose to remove themselves from the case mid-trial saying they would no longer represent him and withdraw the evidence they had been given to submit on behalf of Frenz.
Proceedings are delayed for 2 weeks for Frenz to find new lawyers willing to represent him.
Frenz finds new lawyers & takes the stand to testify.
Under oath Frenz exposes that he and his wife are in business with Zorbalas and that Zorbalas has the controlling interest in LLCs that own the buildings.
During ongoing testimony in relation to the case Frenz testifies that his net income is $300,000 per month from his properties. ($3.6 million a year)
The Court finds that "Frenz engaged in a deliberate and elaborate misrepresentation to inflate the number of occupied units in the property.” “This was not a knee-jerk, trivial or negligent misrepresentation,” Hutchison wrote. He characterized Frenz’s actions as “well-orchestrated deception” and that Frenz’s testimony was utterly unreliable.
The court appoints an Administrator to manage 3057 14th Ave building and see that the required repairs are made.
City of Minneapolis begins the process to revoke the 60+ rental licenses of Steve Frenz across the city.
Hennepin County court finds that Frenz submitted a falsified affidavit and phony leases, fines him $187,390 for “bad faith litigation conduct.” It is the largest fine in MN housing court history.
Frenz is held in contempt of court for refusing to turn over key documents and ordered to jail for 90 days. He avoids serving time by choosing to comply with the court orders.
Tenants of 3057 14th Ave S are awarded $27,813 in rent abatement.
A Class Action Lawsuit against Frenz and Zorbalas is certified. The suit accuses Zorbalas and Frenz of hatching a scheme to hide their joint ownership of properties from the city, in breach of city ordinances, and of creating a financial arrangement to benefit Frenz as long as he could hold down the costs of repairs in the buildings. The class includes everyone who lived in one of their buildings from November 2012 to August 2017.
Frenz 'sells' 5 buildings in Corcoran to Misco Holdings LLC, which is controlled by a former building maintenance person of his management company. The terms of the contract for deed sale allow for a large balloon payment to Frenz due in 4 years time. The City of Minneapolis does not grant a rental license due to the financial interest Frenz continues to have in the buildings.
The Minneapolis City Council votes 10-0 to revoke rental licenses on more than 60 properties owned by landlord Steve Frenz citing “unprecedented and elaborate fraud,” stating that Frenz “does not conduct himself with honesty and integrity”.
A Court appoints an independent Administrator to run the 5 buildings in Corcoran.
Families in the 5 Corcoran buildings on 22nd avenue file a rent escrow action paying more than $27,000 into court escrow as provided by law until their ongoing issues including mold, leaks, mice, cockroaches and broken windows are resolved.
Families of the Corcoran 5 escrow action collectively win $28,608.50 in rent abatement due to poor conditions in their buildings.
The 5 buildings in Corcoran revert back to Frenz/Zorbalas ownership. Tenants allege that rent is attempted to be collected without a rental license but tenants understand and uphold their legal rights.
Frenz delivers letters to vacate - giving notice that he is terminating the leases of the families in the 5 buildings in Corcoran effective September 30th, 2018. After years of tenants requesting repairs Frenz says in the letter that he will be "renovating the entire property."
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo states "NO MPD employee sworn or civilian will participate in enforcing evictions" in response to any potential Frenz Evictions.
Families in the Corcoran 5 begin saving their money together to purchase their homes to run them as a cooperative.
Rather than face trial Zorbalas and Frenz settle the Class Action Lawsuit against them and agree to pay out $18.5 million dollars to affected tenants. The settlement covers 5,400 tenants, many of them working class. It is the largest payout of its kind in Minnesota history.
Families facing evictions from their homes in the Corcoran Cooperative are represented by Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid. The Court finds that tenants were not given a legal notice to vacate and dismisses the notices and eviction proceedings.
Tenants say that Frenz personally hand-delivers new letters in the 5 Corcoran buildings, entering into apartments without notice, telling families to now vacate by February 28, 2019.
Tenants in the 5 buildings in Corcoran offer to purchase their building from Steve and Jennifer Frenz for almost $5 million dollars with a community intermediary, averting evictions of their families and children and giving a win-win scenario for all parties.
Tenants launch an online video fundraiser campaign for their cooperative project, raising over $125,000 in individual donations from their community.
Steve Frenz is charged with Criminal Perjury under oath. At the press conference Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman states "This one was really blatant, he not only lied about it in writing, he manufactured the evidence and went to great length to do this. And he has a history of doing this."
And "Mr Frenz has been pretty aggressive in trying to defend what some of us think is unconscionable conduct."
"He presented documents in court of evidence that was not true, knowing it was not true. In fact, he had manufactured it." "This one insulted all of our sensibilities"
A Court of Appeals upholds the City of Minneapolis revocation of the Frenz rental licenses noting that Frenz admitted he was "not truthful" about the ownership structure of the buildings.
Tenants launch a petition supported by over 50 community organizations and hundreds of neighbors calling on:
Steve and Jennifer Frenz to not evict the families and accept the offer on the table to buy the buildings.
The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office and Minneapolis Police Department to not support or take part in evicting or removing the families from their homes.
Frenz files for evictions in court that target the first 4 families of leaders in the Corcoran Cooperative for displacement and removal.
In response to their buildings receiving placards with water shut off notices, families in the Corcoran Cooperative organize themselves and pay the water bills that had been neglected and left overdue for months without their knowledge.
Tenants challenge the evictions in court.
Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson visits to the Corcoran Cooperative and states:
"I support the sale because it makes the transition easier, we don't have to get involved...If we can get this sale done it's going to make families lives better it's going to make the community better...This is a good group...At this point I don't see why an arrangement can't be made...I'm here because I support the community, I support the organization, and I hope this gets solved peacefully."
Families in the Corcoran Cooperative visit the Minneapolis City Council filling the room with supporters. Families ask the council and the city to intervene more to avert this impending housing crisis of 40 families, 100 people, being put out of their homes when there is a solution that keeps families in their homes.
Buildings in the Corcoran Cooperative receive Gas Shutoff notices due to months of unpaid and neglected bills with outstanding balances. Tenants were unaware that the owner was not paying the gas bills. Tenants file an Emergency TRA to be heard in court to ask for an Administrator to be appointed in the buildings.
Families and 200 supporters hold a procession and prayer vigil outside of Our Lady of Peace Church in South Minneapolis, the longtime parish of Steve and Jennifer Frenz praying for a solution where their children are not evicted.
The court appoints an administrator to be responsible for the occupied units in the building. Families begin to get the repairs they need and have been asking for for years.
Maintenance workers who say they are working for and under the orders of Steve Frenz enter into a unit in the cooperative and empty out all of the belongings of the family living there. The belongings are thrown in a dumpster and some are taken by the workers. They then perform demolition on the apartment and tear out the entire kitchen and the carpet. Lawyers file a motion to hold Frenz in contempt of court for violating the most recent court order and doing un-permitted work in the buildings. [Donate to help get them on their feet here]
Frenz files for 37 additional evictions in the Corcoran Cooperative.
Families in the Cooperative choose to name their housing project Cielo Sin Limites: Sky without Limits.
The court finds that they administratorship is functioning well and repairs start to be made on the building. The court allows the tenants who were displaced in July to stay in another apartment in the buildings.
30 some evictions move towards a Jury Trial to prove that the evictions were filed in retaliation. On the eve of the Trial date the Judge threatens to dismiss the evictions saying that the cases were not filed correctly. The Judge also considered opening a contempt hearing because Frenz did not show up for a deposition he had been subpoena'd for.
The Sky Without Limits Cooperative celebrates that they have collectively organized $7 million dollars to buy their buildings.
A separate court rules that the evictions may proceed.
Steve Frenz criminal perjury jury trial begins. Jurors hear testimony that Steve Frenz submitted leases as evidence for tenants who he knew did not reside in the buildings, rent & financial information for rents that were not collected for the building listed, asked a Pest Control company to change their invoice to reflect the information he was submitting to the court, and lied in a sworn affidavit submitted as evidence.
A jury of 12 people unanimously convicts Steve Frenz of Felony Perjury charges.
Steve Frenz is sentenced to 60 days to be served in the Hennepin County Workhouse, 200 hours of community service, and a $1,000 fine. The judge cited the discrepancy between Frenz's actions towards his family and church community and his criminal actions in the perjury case.
After lawyers for Frenz and Zorbalas miss a hearing date the first eviction trial is rescheduled to March 2020. The eviction case of Chloe Jackson's is to be tried first.
Chloe's Eviction case is held. The jury verdict points to a finding of illegal retaliation, but the Judge has to make the final ruling. The ruling is then delayed due to the effect COVID-19 has had on the courts. Read about the trial in the Eviction Trial Blog.
Another world is possible. The Sky Without Limits Community buys their buildings with the help of the Land Bank Twin Cities! All eviction cases are dropped and the next stage of showing the world what an organized community can accomplish begins!