Rental licensing plan in hands of Skokie Village Board
Skokie's Interim Landlord-Resident Advisory Committee met seven times for nearly 13 hours before the committee's report went to the Village Board last week. | Mike Isaacs~Sun-Times Media
Village trustees will consider the committee’s report before they return to vote on new legislation. Trustee Don Perille, chairman of the committee, predicted he would not be around to vote, saying it’s likely the vote will come after the April 9 election. Perille is not seeking re-election.
The original proposed ordinance and the committee report can be found at www.skokie.org/MulitFamilyLicensing.cfm
Updated: April 1, 2013 6:09AM
Skokie’s Landlord-Resident Advisory Committee spent nearly 13 hours over seven meetings together trying to hash out guidelines for a new ordinance that would regulate rental housing in Skokie.
The committee, which sought consensus between rental property owners, tenants and the village, released a final report that’s now in the hands of the Village Board. Trustee Don Perille, committee chairman, made a presentation to his fellow board members Feb. 19 for the first time — leaving trustees with a lot to ponder.
Although there had been some talk that trustees and the mayor could decide about new legislation after the report was heard, Mayor George Van Dusen quickly put that idea to rest.
Calling the potential legislation “a complex issue,” Van Dusen said the Village Board needs time to digest the report before any decisions are made.
“There will be no vote tonight,” he said.
How much consensus the committee reached over a new ordinance is a matter of perspective. Considering that its members had disparate views about the need for any new regulations, some of them said they were surprised that there was any consensus; others emphasized there remains key disagreements about central points that must be addressed in any ordinance.
“We had unresolved issues and we’re not going to present any kind of an ordinance or a pro forma for an ordinance,” Perille said.
The village last year originally proposed a licensing program requiring landlords to pay $25 per unit for licenses and another $10 per certified owner or managing unit. Owners occupying their two-flats would be exempt from the fee under the plan, as would those in condominiums and co-ops for the time being. Landlords would also be required to attend a landlord-training class to become certified.
But the original proposal was the subject of several acrimonious public meetings with protests from angry landlords. After trustees agreed to postpone the vote, Van Dusen assembled the committee to see if compromises could be reached before the board voted.
From October until early this month, the committee waged a series of spirited discussions at public meetings. Even so, members on different sides of the issue said they believe the experience was positive and beneficial, even if definitive recommendations could not be handed over to the Village Board.
The committee was mixed about whether the ordinance should require licensing, registration or nothing at all. It also couldn’t agree on the proposed $25 fee per unit, or whether the village should spend money on a full-time officer position to implement the plan.
Perille’s report, however, highlighted five major points embraced by the committee’s majority that he said could “form the core of consensus.”
• Registration of landlords makes more sense than licensing.
• Landlord education is a good thing that should be offered by the village.
• If a fee is collected for the registration, it should be used for additional code enforcement capacity, not a police officer.
• A lease rider with tenants’ rights and available resources is highly recommended.
• The village already has strong ordinances in place to address crime and substandard housing. If enforcement is a concern, the village could explore a stronger role for the existing Nuisance Intervention and Prevention Committee as an interdisciplinary body to address rental housing.
The final report includes provisions from the original proposed ordinance matched up against committee comments for revisions. Perille recommended that trustees study the differences and “mark up” these pages with their own thoughts before coming together to decide on new legislation.
Comments made last week by committee members and others though reflected that divisions among the parties still remain.
Landlord George Sweet noted that many landlords have an issue with the $25 fee, which he said adds up to a lot more than $25 for those who have many units in their buildings. He said the fee would be passed on to tenants.
Reflecting the position of many landlords, Sweet said laws that are already on the books should be better enforced before adding new regulations.
“We don’t need more bureaucracy and more legislation,” he said.
Landlord Richard Toth said he doesn’t view being a landlord as a business — ostensibly as a counter to the idea that a required license is the same as a “business license” — but as an investment in Skokie.
But Jeff Burman, a member of the residents’ association, Skokie Voice, which supported the original proposed ordinance, disagreed, saying being a landlord is a business.
“The one thing we had consensus on is that we didn’t have consensus,” he said.
Elyn Sklar, the only renter on the committee, said she is “100 percent for this ordinance” and maintained there is a need for landlords to become better educated.
Julie Naumaik, also a Skokie Voice member, said she supports a comprehensive ordinance, which she believes will be helpful in addressing crime in multi-family zones.
Village officials from the beginning though have denied the proposed legislation is a response to crime problems in Skokie. They say the ordinance is “preventative” and will help the village better communicate with building owners.
It already has helped landlords better communicate with each other.
As a response to the ordinance, landlords formed the Skokie Independent Landlord Association (SILA). One recommendation from landlords is for SILA to become an intermediary board for property problems before they reach the village for action.
Landlords say they, too, want Skokie to be safer and properties to be well maintained. In the committee, they supported the idea of more village inspections of rental properties in Skokie, which Perille said surprised him.
The committee also recommends adding a definitions section to any approved ordinance; adding a FAQ section; including a tenant information sheet to leases; and requiring every building to have a sign with property maintenance contact information.