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Landlords: 'We Want More Inspections'

While there was no vote on the Multi-Unit Licensing Program, several key changes were presented at Skokie's village board meeting on Tuesday.

Village Trustee Don Perille has been working with landlords, real estate professionals and an apartment renter to fine tune the proposed Multi-Unit Licensing Program since October of last year.

For those who aren't in the know, Skokie appears to be moving forward with an ordinance that would hold landlords accountable for their tenants.

If a renter commits a serious crime, the landlord might be forced to remove said tenant and his or her family from the unit, for example. If they don't comply, the village might fine the building owner. The Multi-Unit Licensing Program (MLP) would also hold landlords accountable if their buildings are not up to code or if they violate village ordinances.

There's also discussion of a $25 fee per unit for which the landlord would be responsible. That money would go toward hiring a public safety officer or more inspectors. 

None of this is set in stone, and the village board will not vote on the MLP until after the April elections, Perille said during Tuesday's board meeting.

Since the MLP was introduced in April of last year, a number of changes have been made in large part to the Landlord-Resident Advisory Committee, which is headed by trustee Perille. The group includes several landlords, a renter, a housing-rights leader and real estate professionals.

"Landlords want more inspections," Perille said. "Currently, inspections are happening every 18 to 24 months. Many of [the landlords on the committee] feel there should be more frequent inspection."

Perille added that the committee was also in consensus to require every multi-family home to have a sign posted with the owner's name and phone number.

"That would aid the police, the fire department," he said. "It would also aid the building department staff and enable someone who sees a problem in their neighborhood."

The committee also agreed that the MLP would include all rental property such as two flats, condos that are rented, single-family detached homes and townhomes.

About 155 single-family homes are rented in Skokie, and there are about 1,060 two-or four-unit apartments, according to Julie Naumiak, a member of the Landlord-Resident Advisory Committee. 

"There are people who don't want to sell their homes in this market, but have to take a job elsewhere, so they rent," Perille said. "This is a classic example of an absentee landlord."

A renter 'for' the MLP -

Elyn Sclair lives near the intersection of Church Street and Keating Avenue. She is the only renter on the committee.

"The area I live in is not one of the worst parts of Skokie, but it is not a good area in Skokie either," Sclair said. "I'm 100 percent for this ordinance; the owner I rent from is a slum lord. I keep hearing that the crime rate is going down, but if you ask me, our crime is going up.

"Some of the landlords are not educated enough," she added. "If $25 per unit is what it costs to keep rug rats out of the community, then I don't mind paying the additional $25."

Both Sclair and her mother were born and raised in Skokie, she said.

"I don't want to raise my daughter here because of what's happening in our community," she said. "Do you think I want to live here? No. But my mother lives here [and she needs my help.]"

Crime and multi-unit homes

Palatine and Schaumburg have already implemented programs similar to the one Skokie is trying to pass. Assistant Village Manager John Lockerby has said that 1,700 communities across the country, spanning 43 states, have similar programs in place.

Toby Roberts, the Neighborhood Services Field Director of Palatine, said its licensing program has worked well since its inception in 1990.

"This program is keeping the value of the property up," Roberts said. "Single family homes that are rented tend not to get the maintenance they need, so us being out there tends to help prevent the properties from becoming an eyesore."  

In October of last year, Evanston rejected a proposal somewhat similar to the MLP.

Gail Schecter, Executive Director of the Interfaith Housing Center, also sits on the Landlord-Resident Advisory Committee. She said the MLP is not the solution to reducing crime in Skokie.

"To mesh housing with crime is a recipe for danger," Schecter said on Tuesday. "One of the things that really struck me is with a Palatine officer [that I spoke to]. He said, 'all renters aren't criminals, but all criminals are renters.'

"We're criminalizing renters. I would caution the village of meshing village matters with policing matters. This could be a quick mess."

Editor's note: To view the Landlord-Resident Advisory's full report, click the PDF image above. The report includes other consensuses made among the committee that were not mentioned in this article.

Read our previous coverage:

  • Skokie Closing in on Multi-Unit Licensing
  • Opinion: Multi-Unit License Is Not the Solution
  • Is Skokie’s Multi-Unit License a Double Edged Sword?
  • Landlord: "Village Seems to Think I Should be the Police Department"

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David Floodstrand February 20, 2013 at 02:32 PM
I'm a renter here in Skokie. I take offence to the notion, or inference that renters are somehow 2nd class citizens, and ruffians. I'm a single widower with 2 young children. If my wife were still alive we would have a house by now, but raising 2 kids alone, its hard to get ahead. At this point in time renting is our only option. Don't be so quick to judge, its a very difficult economy and hard to get ahead. I have no police record, and am very respectful of my neighbors, and the building we live in.
Adam Turetzky February 20, 2013 at 02:53 PM
Is the quote from the only renter on this Landlord-Resident Advisory Committee correct or a typo? Did she really say that landlords are not educated enough and then completely misuse a common english idiom? Or does she really want to keep children (rug rats) out of Skokie? I'm glad to read Gail Schecter is on this committee as she appears to have a professional background in civil rights and public policy.
Michael Gershbein February 20, 2013 at 03:45 PM
No "rug rats"? She doesn't even want to live here??? Speechless...
Barbara Markovitz February 20, 2013 at 04:00 PM
Bravo! I cannot tell you what really goes on in the apartments or condos or whatever they are called today. They rent out by the room and their tenants can drink till 4am and cause a noise disturbance and owners not be held accountable. The Skokie Police cannot do anything, the mayor cannot do anything. The owners profit by how many rooms are rented out. I think by keeping the owners accountable and hit them in their pocketbook they maybe would get the hint. The owners don't care because they don't have to live in the community. Oh by the way the photo with the for rent sign...My family bought into the building 2nd from the corner and had to move out of the building due to the 2 owners that rented out by the rooms with the drunken disturbances and how would you like to come home and try to park in your parking spot and there is a BATHTUB in your parking spot. One of the owners gutted the entire unit and put everything in the alley for the Skokie garbage people to remove. What a pathetic joke!
Steve Mottel February 20, 2013 at 04:12 PM
I am sorry to hear that this Gail whomever is on the committee. She is part of the problem. She probably has a shrine to Soros, Maher, p diddy and Obummer at home.
Lynn February 20, 2013 at 04:37 PM
I have been both a renter and a homeowner in Skokie. From both points of view, I see no problem with the new proposal. No, not all renters are bad. Actually, I believe most are good. It is because of the good, that these laws should be passed. It is to protect those that do care and that do want to live in a nice enviroment. When I first moved to Skokie, 2 decades ago, it was a nice safe place to live. Within the past couple years, it is becoming a bit frightening. I no longer feel safe walking my dog at night, or letting my children play alone. When I walk by the apartments near my house, I can smell what they are smoking. Cars are speeding down the road. Violence now seems to be a weekly occurance. I realize to some, weekly doesn't seem like much, but to our community, it is becoming all to common. I know it is not only the renters. Shouldn't we all take whatever steps necessary to reduce all crime? Every step matters.
R. Hof February 20, 2013 at 05:00 PM
I owned a house in Skokie 12 years ago from when my daughter was 8 until 18. It was close to Pratt near Lincolnwood. So safe. Never felt unsafe! I sold it to move to Colorado. I moved back to Skokie not wanting to buy because I will at some point move back. For 6 years I have been living in an apartment/ What they called a condo rental and have to say that these landlords here SUCK applebutter.I have never not paid my rent on time yet they do nothing in my place to fix anything. They are foreign and I usually can not even converse with the, they need to be taken to task. It also is very unsafe in this area between Church and Dempster. Hoods gangs helicopters trying to catch drug lords? It is all due to Skokie landlords not caring who they rent to. Mostly section 8's around here while I pay almost a 1000 a month for this crap. YES we need to do something about this now.
Adam Turetzky February 20, 2013 at 06:05 PM
This is the exact type of thing I pointed out in another topic and someone said I was full of it. Neighbors wanting to use village resources and ordinances to inflict their will and morality on others. And what regulates competing landlords from calling in bogus noise complaints on one another once something like this license takes effect? Barbara, people are allowed to drink alcohol in their homes. People are allowed to do this at all hours. People are allowed to make noise within limits. Federal housing rules regulate lease contracts. The reason the police and mayor weren't able to do anything is probably because laws weren't being broken. Some people work shift work. Their day starts at 2:00 p.m., they go to work at 5:00 p.m. Are off work at 2:00 a.m., relax or unwind until 5 a.m. and go to sleep at 6 a.m. I know, I live next to one. There shouldn't be a law penalizing their landlords or preventing them from finding housing because they don't work 9 - 5. As for the trash in the alley. One of the perks of living in Skokie used to be "unlimited" refuse collection. You could put almost anything in the alley and the village would dispose of it. The loss of this service is what we should be complaining about. Sadly property owners now have to rent private dumpsters for small projects. Those currently go for $400 a day.
Skokie Mike February 20, 2013 at 06:53 PM
I think the village should at the very least send out a flyer informing all renters of what's going on here. This is a big change, and a mailer would go a long way.
Elyn S. February 20, 2013 at 07:23 PM
This is a two part comment...I am not a public speaker and am definitely not the most elegant speaker but here goes. My entire reason for being on the committee is because I can't just sit here and gripe about things and not try to do anything about it. Things are and have been changing in Skokie for a while and it's getting worse. I don't know if this is the answer but I do know that we need to change things for the better. I am a renter and I feel that part of the problem is coming from some of the renters that have moved into this area and their friends. I also feel that part of the problem is some landlords rent to just anyone to get their rental income. I am not saying it is all the renters or all the landlords. When the Palatine police department came out and gave their presentation to the committee we or I guess I should say I learned a lot from what their program does and offers to renters and landlords. When I said some of the landlords could be educated more I was referring to, if this program passes, the landlords will need to take a course and many will learn from it. It hasn't been determined yet on if it's a one time four hour course or how many hours it will be. There are many landlords that don't know what to do if they have a problem tenant or don't know where to go for help in a situation with a problem tenant, this program can help.
Elyn S. February 20, 2013 at 07:24 PM
The officer that will be hired for this program will be their go to person. They can advise on renters and landlords rights and so much more. The training course will also go over screening for potential new tenants and some red flags to look out for. It covers how to make your property safe for example having locks on your basement doors, better lighting around the building and more. It covers so much more. I do not know if this program will work or what the right answer is but I know that something has got to be done. Skokie used to be known as a wonderful community, not anymore. I did say that I don't want to live here. I do not live in a house, I live in a multi unit area and not only hear what has been going on like everyone but I also see it. Because of what has been going on in our community, I don't feel as safe as I used to but for reasons I am not going to go into, I here for a while longer. If we can get the old, safer Skokie back, I will stay, if not I will be moving to another community when I can like so many others have already done.
shp February 20, 2013 at 09:21 PM
Elyn - You spoke from the heart at the Village Board meeting last night and you should be proud! I think you are a fine public speaker! I believe all the right ingredients are in the multi-family ordinance to help make a difference for tenants, good landlords, and all residents in Skokie. At least it is a start.
shp February 20, 2013 at 09:32 PM
Skokie wants all renters to be like you, Sardonicus! I'm not judging renters. Unfortunately, some of the renters in Skokie and their friends are committing the crimes in Skokie. We have already collected the data. The Skokie Police know it, the good landlords know it and Village Officials know it. I'm judging the landlords who have rented to undesirables. I'm also judging the Village Officials for not addressing this issue long ago.
shp February 20, 2013 at 09:37 PM
Please Adam - Who cares about grammar. Does this sound better - Landlords need to be educated on how to be landlords!
Skokie1 February 20, 2013 at 09:44 PM
Barbara, perhaps you should be more careful when saying "They" rent out rooms....and making assumptions about ALL the landlords in Skokie. I am not one to be offended, but such thinking has never resulted in any good for anyone.
Skokie1 February 20, 2013 at 10:12 PM
Elyn, I thank you for your participation. The issue is a complicated one, and many approaches need to be taken. As a landlord, I also am unhappy with some landlords that are not responsible. However, the blame can also be partly placed on the current government of Skokie, for never doing anything to improve the city, and keep it competitive with other neighboring ones (until very recently). It can also be blamed on the Chicago politicians who seem to be pushing their worst citizens out of the city. It can be blamed on the fair housing zealots, that place troubled inner-city families in the suburbs, and never provide any oversight or help to these families. It can be placed on humanity, for allowing criminal youth to end up in that place because of no opportunities, racism, political opportunism, etc. The list is long! This is a large societal problem, that has come to Skokie because the housing stock in Skokie is cheap. I don't see this problem in Winnetka. So to place the blame, and costs solely on all landlords, is a bit disingenuous. Yes, there are some landlords that need to be called to task. However, I am concerned that this is going to turn into a another cash cow for the village, (with the yearly fees), and the fees will only go up. Meanwhile, it will not adequately solve the problem. Finally, this is the first time I have seen any sort of public service placed solely on a particular group. My apartments are smaller, and so I don't have many kids.
Skokie1 February 20, 2013 at 10:14 PM
Yet I pay a lot of money to the public schools in my property taxes. I don't have many elderly, as the walk ups are too high for many, yet there is elderly support in the taxes I pay. This is where the landlord opposition comes from. We pay a lot in taxes, for many services we do not use. To now be told we don't know how to do our job, must pay a yearly fee, etc.. is an insult to many. Nevertheless, if this licensing would surely solve this problem, I would gladly support the fees. Unfortunately, I think there are elements to it that are short-sighted, and reflexive. It is nice to be able to comment on these issues, and once again, I appreciate your service.
Adam Turetzky February 20, 2013 at 10:21 PM
It's a little more than grammar shp. It's an unfortunate quote because in the comments here she sounds more with it. The quote makes it sound like she doesn't understand language which could be a problem when sitting on a committee. I applaud her for getting involved in something which affects her. Rug rats however is another term for children. It would probably be best not to refer to anyone derogatorily with slang, especially if you might use it incorrectly.
shp February 21, 2013 at 02:56 AM
Skokie1 - I can appreciate your point of view. After last night's board meeting and hearing the responsible landlords speak, I would suggest that these landlords who don't have any issues after the first year of the MLP, that they be exempt from the $25 per unit fee in the second year. Why not reward the responsible landlords. I also realized that the final ordinance should be completed by the SILO and the Village attorney. Who knows better than the responsible landlords.
Katie Gudgel February 21, 2013 at 03:08 AM
To all of the responsible landlords and tenants: Are you, your tenants, and your neighbors registered to vote? If you don't know if your tenants/neighbors are registered, talk with them and ask. The last day to register or change your voter registration before the April 9 election is March 12. So, if you or your neighbor has recently moved to Skokie, then make sure to re-register. If you know of someone who has just turned 18 or will turn 18 by April 9, they can also vote in this election - if they are registered. The following web-site has information on how to register (online, by mail, or in person) http://www.cookcountyclerk.com/elections/registertovote/Pages/default.aspx The people being elected on April 9 have quite a bit of influence on our everyday lives. They vote on the local ordinances, property taxes, and through the budget staffing levels of the police, fire, etc. These affect all residents whether they are homeowners or renters. So, please make sure you, your friends, and your neighbors are registered to vote. And don't be afraid to talk with your friends from other communities as well. All of the Northshore communities (Evanston, Morton Grove, etc) have school board elections on April 9, and many of them also have elections for trustees, alderman, and mayor.
Brian Hickey February 21, 2013 at 04:18 PM
Thanks again Katie, for providing that information. I hope you will do so frequently and in many locations on the Skokie Patch Blogosphere. God Bless you. From the bottom of my very sad, but not apathetic heart.
Skokie1 February 21, 2013 at 09:31 PM
Thank you shp. I agree with your prescription. Afterall, are we looking to solve the problem, or create another bureaucracy that will never die. That fee every year can be better spent on improving buildings, gentrification, etc.. Furthermore, most landlords have more interest in seeing this problem solved than the people at village hall.
Sweetg February 26, 2013 at 05:09 AM
If people are commiting crimes, and the police know who they are (as SHP states) then why aren't they being arrested? Why are landlords expected to do the work of the police? And why make every good tenent (like Sardonicus) foot the bill by charging an extra $25 rent for laws that are already on the books? Get the facts about the proposed "Tenant Tax" at SkokieLandlord.org
Sweetg February 26, 2013 at 05:15 AM
For clarification, it was Elyn Sclair (the renter on the advisory committee) that made the reference to keeping "rug rats" out of Skokie - not Gail. I'm Elyn is not suggesting we keep children out of Skokie. I'm just afraid of who she actually was suggesting we keep out of Skokie. I fear her derogatory term was aimed at a group of people that Landlords cannot legally disciminate against. And again - why make Landlords do the work of the police?
Sweetg February 26, 2013 at 05:24 AM
Barbara, if laws are being broken, why can't the police do anything? And why do you think that a landlord could leagally do anything that the police cannot? Landlords "pocket books" are already hit if they rent to bad tenents, because then good tenents move out. Why hit them with additional fees? It won't result in getting the bad tenents out - since the landlords can't legally evict them, it just allows the bad tenents to stay in the apartment rent free. (The new ordinance says that landlords can't collect rent from bad tenents, but does nothing to assist landlords in evicting them.)
Sweetg February 26, 2013 at 05:30 AM
Lynn, you say "not all renters are bad. Actually, I believe most are good." One of the many problems with this ordinance is that it punishes ever good tenent for the action of a few bad ones. It also punishes every landlord for the actions of a few bad ones. But you know what? If this ordinance actually had the effect its intended to, I would say great. Unfortunately, it will have the exact opposite effect. It does nothing that existing laws don't already do - except by punishing everyone for the actions of a few, it will chase the good people out of Skokie, driving up crime and driving down property values. If you don't believe me, you should attend the village meetings and hear what everyone is saying. Or get the facts at Skokielandlord.org
Sweetg February 26, 2013 at 05:37 AM
You want better landlords? Don't impliment laws that put decent landlords out of business. The Skokie Police Dept just added half a dozen new officers, so why isn't crime going down? Don't blame absentee landlords. Why doesn't the Skokie Police department have residency requirements like Chicago and most other towns? You want crime to go down, make the cops live here where they work. PS. In fact there is very little section 8 in Skokie. PSS. If you are having problems with your landlord, try contacting SkokieLandlord.org for assistance.
Sweetg February 26, 2013 at 05:56 AM
Elyn, let me ask this, "Why would a landlord want a bad tenent?" Chances are that the bad tenent isn't nice to the landlord. They're probably not paying on time. The landlord already has to pay fines when the bad tenent throws trash out the window. Not to mention all the damage that bad tenent does to the apartment, which has to be repaired once the tenent moves out. But the biggest problem for the landlord is that one bad tenent keeps all the good tenents away, driving down rents. So there is NO REASON a landlord want's a bad tenent. So why are there bad tenents around? 1) Landlords are not informed on how to properly screen tenents. 2) Police do not notify landlords there is a problem until it is too late. 3) The biggest reason is that Skokie is not attracting good tenants. The bad ones are all that landlords can find. So how do we draw good tenents to Skokie? Better police enforcement, better control over gangs in the parks, more cooperation with landlords to help weed out bad tenents and especially reinvesting in Skokie to help improve all the 60 year old housing stock. This ordinance will not accomplish any of that. Write an ordinance that will (using the many suggestions from the advisory council) and I'll be happy to jump on board. A propsperous and safe community benefits the landlords as much, if not more than the renters, because we profit from higher rents and higher property values. So you have to ask, "Why are all the landlords against the ordinance?"
shp February 26, 2013 at 02:08 PM
Sweetg: The landlords are not against the ordinance, but rather they are not completely satisfied with some of the wording and the annual fee. It is clear that there needs to be a dedicated police officer to help enforce the ordinance. Even though the current ordinance is probably substantial, it is not being enforced for lack of personnel. If you go to the SILO website (Skokie Independent Landlords Ordinance), there is plenty of information. I think all 3 of your points are correct. Hopefully, the revised ordinance will close the gap between police and landlords. It's not only bad tenants, another reason is some landlords are not updating their units b/c they can't afford to or they don't want to continue to invest in their property. I believe MOST landlords do not want to rent to bad tenants and landlord occupied buildings DO NOT rent to bad tenants. Something the Village could do is assist landlords with getting grants or funding to update their units to possibly get better tenants. Once a building rents to ONE bad tenant they lose their good tenants. This scenario has escalated over the past 6 to 8 years to where we are today.

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