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Is Skokie’s Multi-Unit License a Double Edged Sword?

Skokie may pass a new measure that targets renters in the community. If passed, renters who commit crimes may be forced to leave their apartment. Will this benefit or hurt the community?

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 georges@patch.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  In other words, if a rental license was revoked today, the tenants would need to move out at once or the property owner may face continuous fines.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 , 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: hhandler@iar.org 

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Gregg Baker September 01, 2012 at 05:15 AM
Perhaps the real estate institute would be willing to help craft stronger law enforcement ideas to reduce crime because that will make people want to move to Skokie which can only benefit property values, taxes, etc. Everyone wins when crime goes away.
Susan Singer September 01, 2012 at 05:45 PM
The following is what appears on the Board's agenda for the September 4 meeting. It is also available at http://www.egovlink.com/public_documents300/skokie/published_documents/Manager%20Department/BoardAgenda/2012-09-04/2012-09-04.pdf This ordinance would mandate the licensing of multi-unit residential buildings to ensure property management and supervision of the rentals. The program will have the following components: (i) licensing for the rental of multi-unit residential property; (ii) training and education of property owners and managers; (iii) inspections by Property Standards and Police personnel; and (iv) a crime free lease addendum requirement (civil contract between a landlord and tenant whereby an applicant agrees, prior to tenancy, to abide by the rules of the property and not to participate in or allow criminal activity to occur within their sphere of influence). Licensing will assist in deterring property owners and managers from operating with inadequate management practices, thus benefitting current and future residents and the neighborhoods. Then it references attachment "F" of the packet, which is the proposed law (as of August 28). The new changes appear on page 2, line 33 through page 7, line 34. It is written plainly - not in legalese - does have enforcement provisions, ways the landlord can contest a suspension and get reinstated AND addresses tenants' rights to remain through a lease term if the landlord is suspended.
Sweetg September 02, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Nice of the village to finally publish the ordinance... over the holiday weekend, with no notice, two days before they plan to vote on it. They also suggest creating a citizens panel to discuss the ordinance - AFTER IT IS APPROVED. Does this whole thing sound fishy to anyone else?
Patrick September 17, 2012 at 02:09 PM
I thought the constitution reads innocent until proven guilty. It could be expensive for Skokie if someone brings a suit on that basis. Same as Chicago and Evanston have to pay out settlements for use of excessive force: a municipality can be held liable for unconstitutional actions.
Sweetg September 27, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Get the facts. Read the Village's draft of the ordinace (more than 30 pages, containing strike-outs, revisions & corrections) only available online. Also visit www.SkokieLandlord.org to get some highlights and concerns about the ordinance. Then decide if this is an ordinance you want to support.

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