Sunday, June 23

Illinois City Creates New Way to Keep Tenants-and Landlords-in Line

A small city in Illinois, enacted a city ordinance designed to help landlords deal with problem tenants. Called the Crime Free Housing Ordinance, which passed Monday, July 15, 2014, gives landlords the ability to evict residents who have committed crimes on their rental property. However, the ordinance also gives the city the ability to discipline landlords who are seen as remiss in preventing crime on their properties.

According to the new ordinance, landlords in the city of Pekin, Illinois are now required to attend a four-hour seminar to learn about the new ordinance, as well as receive tips on screening potential tenants, additional information on landlord-tenant laws in the state of Illinois, and other pertinent details. Following the seminar, each landlord must attach a copy of the ordinance to all rental agreements. Given the size of Pekin, which is home to 840 landlords and 2,500 rental units on 1,600 properties, this section of the new procedure alone could drastically affect how some citizens obtain housing, as well as how landlords are required to operate their properties.

While specifically targeting tenants and landlords, the true aim of the Crime Free Housing Ordinance is to reduce criminal behavior, particularly in residential areas. It applies to crimes committed in rental units, on the lot of a rental unit, and the common areas of apartment complexes. It includes the crimes committed by residents, as well as visitors to the property. Regardless of the crimes that take place, a landlord now has the discretion to handle the offense, and can decide on the best plan of action as they see fit. However, the ordinance and its authors seem to favor eviction, which is seen as a threat that may prevent a rental property from becoming a “nuisance property”, or a frequent location for illegal activity and police visitations.

In order to facilitate this treatment of criminal behavior, the Pekin Police Deparmtne will review reports each day and contact landlords if officers have been called to their property for criminal matters. However, if the landlord does not take initiative and address the crime through eviction or other methods, they can be fined an amount ranging from $250 to $750 per unit for each day that the violation goes unaddressed. If the landlord continues to ignore the ordinance, the city can then revoke or suspend their license to operate a rental property in the city, rendering the landlord unable to collect rent. But while the Police Department will apparently attempt to work with the landlord to achieve compliance before revoking their permit, and appeal processes are available if filed within 15 days of the suspension, these requirements raise a number of questions: most importantly, does this law endanger a tenant’s ability to find housing? And does the new process put too much on pressure on landlords to enforce an especially strict place of living?

Currently, there are similar ordinances in other Illinois cities, including Bloomington, Bolingbrook, Champaign, Peoria, and Elgin. In order to fund the seminars and other associated, Pekin’s landlords will now reportedly be required to pay a $10 yearly fee, compared to a former ordinance that required a one-time payment of $25 per unit to register rental property. As of yet, landlords and city residents seem fairly supportive of the new measures. However, only time will show how this law affects crime rates, housing, and other factors in Pekin.

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