The following is an opinion submitted to Skokie Patch and does not reflect our publication's view on said issue. If you'd like to submit a counter to this article, please email me at email@example.com.
Imagine if the state legislature passed a law requiring all Illinois licensed taxis to be painted yellow, and the Village of Skokie later passed a law that said all taxis registered in Skokie must be painted blue. Taxi owners would have to choose between complying with state or local law. Government wouldn’t knowingly do such a thing, right?
Well, Village of Skokie staff are proposing an analogous policy. As proposed, rental units in Skokie would be licensed by the village and if the license is revoked tenants would have to immediately vacate their unit or the property owner would face stiff financial penalties. In other words, if a rental license was revoked today, the tenants would need to move out at once or the property owner may face continuous fines.
Setting aside the many adverse social consequences of such a policy, simply put, Illinois state law does not allow landlords to forcibly eject tenants. Illinois’ Forcible Entry and Detainer Act dictates the reasons a landlord may initiate the eviction process and what steps must be taken to do so – a process which often takes upwards of six months or more. Furthermore, a municipality revoking a rental license is not provided in state law as a reason to begin the eviction process. Landlords that file erroneous eviction suits can face legal liabilities.
How has village staff responded? In short, they say the conflict with state law is the landlord’s problem. Village staff contends this ultimate penalty of being forced to choose between following state or local law will only be imposed on landlords with “bad tenants," or landlords who are “bad” themselves. In fact, Village of Skokie staff has indicated it is their intention to maintain the ability to revoke licenses upon a tenant simply being arrested and not found guilty in a court of law – again, something contrary to Illinois law.
Even for the worst landlord or the worst tenant, it is fundamentally unjust and poor public policy for government to force its residents and taxpayers to choose between conflicting laws. Doing so sends a chilling message that reasonableness and fairness are unnecessary components of law. It’s important to remember that rental property owners and their tenants significantly contribute to the property tax base and overall vitality and health of Skokie. Especially in this market, property owners have many choices where to buy properties. A policy such as this certainly will not attract investment in Skokie.
The Skokie Village Board has been thoughtfully studying this complex issue and is anticipated to further address it on Tuesday, Sept. 4 at 8:00 p.m. at Skokie Village Hall, 5127 Oakton St.
Howard Handler is Government Affairs Director for the not-for-profit North Shore – Barrington Association of REALTORS® – the area’s leading private property advocate. Handler, a licensed real estate broker, received his undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and his master’s degree in Public Policy and Administration from Northwestern University. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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