Skokie landlords pack Village Hall to protest regulations
Landlords line up to speak Sept. 4 at a spirited Skokie Village Board meeting regarding a proposed ordinance calling for regulating multifamily rental units in the village. | Mike Isaacs~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 14, 2012 12:21PM
SKOKIE — A pending ordinance that would regulate most multifamily-housing rental units in Skokie is on hold again after village trustees on Sept. 4 agreed to continue the measure at the urging of dozens of angry landlords.
For the fifth time, landlords turned out in mass at a public hearing or meeting to question and protest the ordinance, which has already been recommended by the village’s Public Safety Commission. Although the ordinance was due for a final vote by the Village Board, trustees approved tabling the measure to their Oct. 15 meeting. While the main components of the ordinance have been batted back and forth in public gatherings for months now, landlords argued that the ordinance in written form was only made available Aug. 30 and did not give adequate time for study and a response.
“I don’t understand why the ordinance hasn’t been put out publicly so people can read it and be at ease a little bit,” said Todd Trawinski, a licensed real-estate broker who owns rental property in Skokie.
Trawinski, one of about 20 landlords who spoke at the meeting, was one of the few who indicated that the ordinance could have benefits.
But all landlords seemed united that the ordinance should be tabled and not “rushed through” Sept. 4.
Trustee Randy Roberts said he believes “many parts of the ordinance are valid,” but given that he made two amendments to it just Sept. 4 and given the comments of landlords, he made a motion to wait until October for a final vote, which was unanimously approved.
Still, given the repeatedly vociferous reaction by landlords to the series of regulations the village wants to put in place, it’s expected that next month’s meeting will result in a sixth gathering where landlords voice opposition to the new regulations.
Skokie leaders call the ordinance a “preventative strategy” that will allow landlords to work with the village, including a designated law-enforcement officer, to preserve or improve the character of their neighborhoods.
But landlords see the ordinance in more-antagonistic ways — as an unfair financial burden equivalent to a new tax, as an unreasonable transfer of responsibility for problematic tenants and as an unnecessary mandate requiring them to take a property-management course. Many also expressed anger that their input was not included in the drafting of the ordinance.
Under the measure, all qualifying landlords would have to have licenses for each unit they rent out. Licenses would cost $25 per unit and another $10 fee would be charged per certified owner or managing unit.
Landlords would be required to attend a landlord-training class to become certified.
According to the village, “the class would highlight best practices, crime-prevention principles and life safety code issues.” It would also be mandatory that landlords include a crime-free addendum or have a clause similar to the addendum in all leases.
One point of contention between landlords and the village is the village’s right to withhold, suspend or revoke a landlord’s license for individual rental units. If a license is suspended, a property owner can petition for reinstatement at any time.
But Assistant Village Manager John Lockerby said landlords who work with the village should have little problem with the new ordinance.
Lockerby and Corporation Counsel Pat Hanley defended the ordinance, specifically addressing some of the charges against it.
“It does not require the immediate eviction of tenants,” Hanley said. “If a tenant has a valid lease and a license is suspended, the tenant can remain during the term of (his or her) lease.”
Lockerby said the ordinance has “nothing to do with race,” a response to a charge that seems to have circulated in recent months. Lockerby repeated his assertion to drive home the point.
Demographic data in Skokie shows remarkable diversity and indicates that those impacted by the ordinance would come from different backgrounds, he noted.
Other communities have similar ordinances, Lockerby said, and those towns have seen a reduction in police calls. But some of the landlords questioned that the ordinance has resulted in lower crime and pointed out that few municipalities in Illinois have such an regulations.
Roberts’ amendments from Sept. 4 would include two-flats in the regulations, which originally were excluded. And occupied-owners of two-flats would not have to pay the $25 fee for the unit in which they live.