If Skokie is going to require property owners to pay a license for each individual unit, the village is going to endure a lot of resistance from landlords. That was the message from the meeting Wednesday night and it will likely remain that way for some time.
The village announced last week that it’s beginning to consider a “licensing” program for apartment owners. The new measure would require them to pay $25 per unit on an annual basis in addition to a $10 fee for a certified owner. Believing this is an “evolution” of existing village policies, the stated goal of the program is to increase cooperation between owners and the village, as well as the police. The idea is that it will keep the community cleaner and safer.
With approximately 1,200 multi-unit buildings in Skokie, and a corresponding 5,000 units, village officials believe the money raised by the fee will pay for an additional officer on the police force.
Village officials said similar programs are in place in many other parts of the Chicago area.
At Wednesday night’s Public Safety Commission meeting, officials said that for the past five years approximately 10 percent of emergency calls come from Skokie’s multi-unit buildings. The prevention of crime aspect was a theme that was emphasized during Wednesday’s meeting.
The role of the proposed officer -
Specifically, the role of the new police officer would be totally dedicated to working on buildings and ensuring that landlords are taking proper care of their property.
“That person would work hand in hand with the property standards inspector,” said Police Chief Anthony Scarpelli. “It would be their full time job. Right now we don’t have anybody.”
Scarpelli added down the road there could be additional officers added if it was deemed necessary.
Another crime fighting technique incorporated into this program will be owners will be required to have potential renters sign a crime-free lease addendum as building owners will also be required to take a training session to get village feedback as to what is the best way to be a landlord.
If the village finds that a landlord is violating the license agreement, a rental license could be suspended.
“The license allows us to deal with an investor or a landlord who is not necessarily committed to adhering to the village code,” noted Assistant Village Manager John Lockerby. “This allows us to deal with it on a license-by-license basis.”
Concerns about the program -
But one building owner was concerned over the new requirements, specifically relating to crime.
“The village seems to think I should be the police department,” said Constantine Theodoreopolous. “I do not want to be renting to drug dealers or rapists or anyone else, but if there is criminal activity taking place, the police should arrest them and put them away. If they do not have enough evidence, where do I have the evidence to evict them?”
Not surprisingly, there weren’t a lot of owners who will too thrilled about having to pay what would at least be $50 a year more, which could be much higher depending on the number of units that in the possession of a landlord.
“Putting additional costs on the operation of residential units is lower the value of the property even more,” said owner Dror Kopernik. “If someone comes and wants to buy a rental property for investment and one of the considerations is the cost and the cost is higher, than the value of the property is lower.”
The fact that other municipalities have a similar program also did not impress owners.
“Just because all the other towns are doing this ordinance doesn’t mean it’s great or should be applicable in Skokie,” said Richard Toth, an owner of some Skokie properties.
Some renters and a representative of Skokie Voice – the upstart community group – voiced their support of the proposal.
Nothing is official
More than once it was stated the idea was still in the planning stages and late in the meeting it was moved to have another public hearing on the matter in front of the same committee. Eventually, the proposal could land in the lap of the village board.
That seems to be some time away, but village staff certainly wants something to happen.
“Well maintained property is something that is very much appreciated,” Lockerby said. “One of the global benefits of this program is for people to have pride in their community.”