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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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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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