Council kicks rental licensing back to staff

It was standing room only at Monday night's Evanston City Council meeting with dozens of landlords speaking to oppose a planned new rental licensing ordinance.
While a few home owners in apartment-heavy neighborhoods and an even smaller number of tenants spoke in favor of the measure, aldermen decided the proposal wasn't ready fo prime time and sent it back to city staff for unspecified revisions.
Replacing the city's existing rental building registration system with a plan that would license individual rental units has been under consideration at least since 2008.
The most recent version of the proposal was developed by a special mayoral committee that split 4-3 in June in recommending the version that was before aldermen Monday night.
Landlords objected that fines of up to $2,500 a day for renting an unlicensed unit could easily drive them out of business, and said that to comply with the city ordinance they'd have to violate state law that requires court hearings before a tenant can be evicted.
The conflict with state law issue appeared to be at least partially addressed by last-minute changes to the ordinance draft by the city law department following complaints last week from the North Shore-Barrington Association of Realtors.
While city staff insisted that the ordinance would only be used against properties with serious life safety code violations, the text of the ordinance contains no such limits.
The only certainty about the ordinance appeared to be that it would raise roughly an additional $500,000 in annual licensing revenue for the city.
While landlords would have to renew their licenses and pay a new fee every year, the ordinance anticipates that most rental units would be inspected at most once every four years.



The city has an agenda and safety is not it

It was clear by who actually spoke last night that the City no more interested in safety at properties as it does in overseaing chicken farms. 
The fact is the ONLY people who spoke in favor of the Ordinance just so happen to reside right around the University. If this Ordinace is to 'protect' tenants from these horrible landlords all over town, where are the tenants in those buildiings? Where are the residents who live next to these terribly run properties?
The City claims this is being done for safety, yet when asked where all these unsafe properties are they seem to have other things to talk about. The City by its own fruistion released a list of 52 properties last year and in the end more than 95% of the properties on the list of 'terrbible properties' had none or minor violations.
The City is speaking loud and clear, they are pushing this Ordiance for two purposes
1) To garnish more money
2) To controld the student population. If they revoke a license the property cannot be rented for almost 12 months. Everyone knows the student properties rent 12 months in advance. This will FORCE landlords to make a change with their properties.

  • I am all for safe and properrly maintained buildings and the Property Maintenance Code makes sure that I do that.
  • The City wants to know who I am and where my offfice is and make some money too. No problem, the Registration Ordiance already does that.
  • The City wants to make sure that I treat my tenants with respect and act appropriately, no problem the Landlord Tenantt Ordiance already does that.

So help me to understand, what in the world does the Licensing Ordiance accomplish that is not already on the books?
When and if I can get a clear answer that my 4 year old can understand I will step asside and allow the Ordiance to move forward. Until then, I will be showing up at every meeting to oppose it.

Piling on more government regulations is the wrong course

I am very concerned with the direction the Evanston council is going in regards to piling on more regulations.
The real estate market has improved this year, compared to the last five to six years. We are not out of the woods yet. There are too many people who own property worth less than what they paid. It's the wrong time to enact additional ordinances on rentals and vacation rentals or new restrictions on home expansions. These ordinances and tighter expansion restrictions would come at a time when the real estate market is trying to make a recovery.  There are no guarantees it will.
The City of Evanston has had a rental registration requirement for the past four years. Some aldermen and city staff admitted the registration requirement has failed because the city either can't or doesn't monitor all the rentals.
A good example is the owner of 1525 Dobson who sued the city after she was told to stop short-term or vacation rentals of her home. Olufemi Davies, the homeowner, said city staff told her a permit or rental registration was not required even after neighbor complaints. If this is true, city staff were not enforcing the current rental registration requirement.
Neighbors of the multi-unit at 2515 Ashland, purchased this year in a foreclosure, want the city to stop that owner from offering short-term rentals. These neighbors at first didn't want a vacation rental ordinance, they demanded the city enforce current laws. City staff in response came up with an ordinance that would have banned any short-term rental more than 24 hours. Thankfully, aldermen rejected that.
There are at least a dozen property owners of Evanston condos, homes and multi-units that advertised on websites for short-term rentals. My bet is they also were not registered with the city. If the city can't run it's rental registration program how can it operate a rental and vacation rental licensing ordinance?
As one aldermen said regarding the vacation rental ordinance proposal from city staff, "we're creating more problems." 
I agree. There is no need for a rental licensing ordinance, short or long term, nor is there a need to further restrict height expansion of homes at a time when the real estate market is still tender from a devastating great recession.
The height restriction issue was dealt with eight years ago and there are adequate limits in place right now.  Take a look around. People buy one or 1.5 story homes next to 2-3 story homes all over Evanston. Back 50 years ago builders built one story ranches next to 2.5 story high victorians, tudors, farmhouses, etc.  These ranches sat next to homes that towered over them and they sold and resold. Let the buyers decide.
In summary, the most prized asset for many of us is real estate. There are too many people still financially hurting from the economic collapse and rising property taxes compounds the pain. Creating more restrictive ordinances that could negatively affect the real estate market is not the right course at this time. 

Wally's lack of staff comment ( Rental licensing?)

At the 6th ward meeting at 3 Crowns, one of the residents complained to Wally they had a Small brick paver sidewalk that need a city inspector to come to 3 Crowns, since they were having an event, but they were told that the employee was on Vacation and no one could come inspect it.  Wally told the person that due to layoffs, they have problems.  As I recall Wally kept saying, that the layoffs will have no effect, everything was fine.
But the real issue here, is how hard is it to send another employee, to do this task, do it over the phone, etc. That brings up the issue of licensing, as everyone points out the city had NO intention of inspecting these  rental property, unless staff are currently sitting around and doing nothing?    In looking at the whole department, it appears it has staffing problems, not that adding more staff will correct but the right staff.
I asked Wally why the budget did not show a reduction in positions on the parking ticket agencies, since he bought the $100,000 plus license plate reconition system. ( and stated this as justification for the system ) He said by the middle of the year with a employee retiring, he would reduce staff, but his newest idea is there will be NO stickers for the cars next year, there has not been one year were the city has sent me the right application for my cars, does Wally seriously think this will not create a mess?  How much will not having the physical stickers save?  I would suspect 100's of people will end up with tickets who have paid, another dumb idea, that will cost us even more money.
Wally's newest addition to the city budget this year - a "Crisis Coordinator", at 3 Crowns he stated that people were coming to the city's door step, due to lack of funds, he mentioned they can't pay their water bills.  I find this interesting, it would appear to me these people are complaining to council members and our Mayor, about this, so Wally solutions is to hire a new patronage position to handle this so our elected officials don't have to hear complaints.I suggested Wally hire a contact employee to do this, I never got an answer, or for that matter let one of the social service agencies the city gives money to handle it. ( Was 311 created for better service or to stop having the public call council members when there trash  and recycling is not picked up? Clearly council members aren't concern about service, if they don't hear about it everything is fine! )
My solution is stop using the water bills for everything else but water, that is stop stealing 3 million a year to the general fund, stop adding all the trash and other fees.  I reviewed the unpaid water bill list there were hundreds of residents who were owning the city $300- $500 bills, what is the so called crisis coordinator going to do?  Will some people be given a pass , friends of council members?
400 residents showed up for the community meeting on violence, 4 residents came to the budget hearing, our council members and Mayor were mashing it up with their NU friends, ( no doubt discussing giving away our park land ) , it would be nice to see a few more people coming to question the city budget.  Even a few landlords, Wally is doing a lot more to hurt you than trying to license your property.