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Sunrise Court hearing moved to Monday

MARSHALL — A petition trying to get the heat turned back on at the Sunrise Court apartment complex made it into Lyon County District Court on Friday morning, but there wasn’t much action taken on it.

Instead, because there are more petitions being filed by tenants, the court will hear them all at once on Monday.

District Court Judge Tricia Zimmer said there wasn’t enough time scheduled on Friday to adequately address the petitions. So, she would continue the hearing.

“This is a very important matter for everyone involved,” especially with cold weather coming, Zimmer said.

Attorneys representing Sunrise Court tenants and Suite Liv’n co-owner Jeff Huston appeared in court Friday, as did Huston and Jessica Thovson, a Sunrise Court resident who filed the petition for emergency relief. Gabe Olson, the other defendant named in Thovson’s petition, was unable to attend Friday’s hearing, attorney Matthew Duffy said.

The hearing also drew an audience of several other Sunrise Court residents and the Marshall city attorney.

Thovson filed a petition on Sept. 28, seeking emergency relief under the Tenant Remedies Act. Suite Liv’n a Willmar-based business, took ownership of Sunrise Court in September, and distributed letters to the residents saying they had a month to vacate the building. (Court papers filed by Huston and Olson’s attorneys this week said the deadline had been extended to the end of October.) The letters claimed the heating in the three-building apartment complex needed to replaced, and the work couldn’t be done before winter.

Thovson’s petition said she was asking the court to order the building owner or manager to fix the emergency problems with the heating systems.

Judge Zimmer said a number of similar matters were also being filed in Lyon County court, and the 30 minutes scheduled for Friday’s court appearance wouldn’t be enough to give them a proper hearing.

“In light of this situation, I am going to continue this matter,” she said. In the meantime, Zimmer said she expected attorneys on both sides of the case to exchange information, including possible boiler inspection reports, and to serve the defendants with all the tenant petitions.

On Wednesday, a state boiler inspector told Sunrise Court tenants and the Independent that he found five objects out of compliance for two of Sunrise Court’s three boilers. However, he also said it would be possible to fix the problems.

The question of whether or not the apartment complex’s boilers could be fixed before winter sets in was a major part of an objection to Thovson’s petition. The objection, filed in Lyon County District Court on Thursday, said it was impossible to grant the relief Thovson was seeking.

The objection said an HVAC inspector from Bullet Proof Mechanical found that one boiler had failed, and the vents for the boiler systems were undersized. The boiler systems needed to be “demolished and completely replaced,” which would take months, the objection said.

The objection also claimed Thovson filed her petition against the wrong parties. According to the objection, the new owner of the Sunrise Court property is L2C, LLC. Huston and Olson were managers, but “not personally liable for L2C’s actions,” the objection said.

Business listings from the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office said L2C, LLC filed as a limited liability company on July 23. Its registered office address is the same Willmar address listed on Suite Liv’n’s business website.

However, the Secretary of State’s Office listing for Suite Liv’n said that business filed as an assumed name in 2013. The nameholder for Suite Liv’n was listed as AEHC, LLC. The LLC has a registered office address in Litchfield, and lists Jeffery Huston as its manager.

Huston and Olson’s objection also said Thovson’s petition was moot for several reasons. Thovson had told building management she had found a new residence and would be leaving by the end of October, the objection said.

It also said Suite Liv’n had offered to refund tenants’ security deposits in full, waived October rent, and waived application fees for current tenants when the apartments re-opened. The objection also said Thovson was in violation of her lease, because management did not know her boyfriend Joshua Prine was living in the apartment.

So far, at least one other petition has been filed by a Sunrise Court resident.

“We have more than 30 people that need to be represented,” said attorney Peter Omari. However, Omari said some of those Sunrise Court tenants aren’t really aware of the situation, due to language barriers.

Phone messages and e-mails left for Huston’s attorney and Suite Liv’n on Friday were not returned as of press time.

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