More than 150 landlords and Skokie citizens filled every seat at village hall Monday evening, stood in the aisles and even filled the lobby. Most of them were there to criticize the village's proposed ordinance which would regulate property owners/managers and multi-family buildings.
Speakers were allotted three minutes each, but there were so many that the comment period went on for more than two hours during the village board meeting.
Earlier: Skokie To Consider Sweeping Ordinance On Rental Properties
Many said the ordinance limited their rights to sell their properties and could lower their market value.
George Sweet complained that requiring landlords to collect a name, date of birth, social security number and other information for every person living in a tenant's household was far more than landlords should have to do. He referred the board to the Skokie Independent Landlord Association website.
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Barbara Kenning said her parents built their building on Niles Center Road, and the family has always maintained it.
"My business has always been compliant," she added. "Why do I have to start paying a fee now? Why don’t you just go to those who have not been compliant?"
Howard Jacobson said he had sat, as a landlord, on an advisory committee charged with developing ideas for this ordinance, but that the final ordinance was vastly changed from what the committee discussed.
"There was nothing about inspections prior to sale," he said. "How dare you take a look at our property and tell us when we can sell?" He also said the fee the village imposes on landlords would equate to $2.88 a month, but could double next year, and increase again and again. He said the increases would be passed on to tenants.
"All you’re doing is destroying Skokie. People are not going to make that investment in Skokie," he said.
Jim Nasby acknowledged the village created the ordinance to respond to some citizens' concerns that crimes were being committed by residents of buildings whose landlords looked the other way.
"I know crime is a serious issue, but I’m concerned that we may be shifting too much of the onus for preventing it to landlords," he said. "We may be overreaching.
Owners of two- and three-flats said they were just getting by paying mortgages and property taxes, and the fees in this ordinance would put a burden on them.
Others were taken aback by the provision that landlords must post their phone numbers on a 8" by 10" sign in either an interior or exterior entrance area.
Connie Walsh said she has good tenants whom she sees in the hallways regularly, and they have her phone number. She worried about the safety of posting her phone number, especially because she is a senior citizen.
The ordinance had its supporters as well.
Gloria Iverson said she owns a multi-unit building, and police are frequently being called to two other buildings on her street, including one call for gunshots. She has children and is concerned about safety.
"The current landlord has not removed those tenants," she said. "It's a shame."
"So I have to agree with this. I’m sorry if other people do not. I live there and I have to deal with this. My pocketbook is affected by this; it’s hard to keep good tenants."
Gail Schechter, the director of Open Communities, a fair-housing organization, said one of the challenges of the ordinance was how to rein in bad landlords without being punitive to good landlords.
Still others had ideas. One man suggested the village start an incentive or rebate program for landlords to install security cameras around their property, since the cameras are not affordable for many landlords. Another suggested landlords could make their contact information available to tenants in a lock box.
Seymour Schwartz thanked village officials for listening to citizens who were concerned about public safety in Skokie and studying the issue and coming up with this ordinance.
"This is a community-driven project, not a government-initiated project," he said.
He acknowledged landlords had some good points, but that it's important to look at the bigger picture, including the fact there has been a rash of violent street crime, he said.
"We all live in the community; we all have a stake in lowering crime. Therefore I urge trustees to follow through and vote for this ordinance," he said.