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Evanston officials tonight will get feedback from aldermen on a plan that would dramatically hike licensing fees for apartments that officials say aren’t being managed properly.

In addition to the higher fees, the plan also includes a rewrite of the city’s nuisance premises ordinance — and a new name for it — the “Neighborhood Integrity Ordinance.”

Corporation Counsel Grant Farrar, in a memo to aldermen, says about 15 percent of the rental properties in town would be hit with the new higher “Tier II” fees. The fee for a single-family rental would go from $20 for compliant properties to $100 for non-compliant ones.

The registration fees are now projected to raise $100,000 in this year’s city budget. The higher fees, Farrar says, would help cover the cost of increased enforcement efforts.

Farrar says the new Neighborhood Integrity Ordinance would modify the list of violations that would trigger enforcement action, eliminating some that relate to liquor laws, gambling, curfew and zoning violations.

He says the current list “is overly broad and encompasses offenses which do not substantively relate to preventing criminal activity.”

The new ordinance would also eliminate the most drastic penalty in the existing ordinance — the possible forfeiture of the rental property to the city.

In the memo Farrar says foreiture isn’t “rationally related” to the city’s focus on eliminating public health and safety concerns, and that the city will focus instead on getting landlords to remove and prevent the nuisance issues.

The revision would also give the city 12 months rather than six to pursue enforcement action after a violation occurs.

The revised ordinance would also set up a scheme under which all rental properties would be routinely assessed to determine whether they are nuisance premises — an effort to avoid claims that the ordinance is applied arbitrarily.

And the revisions, Farrar says, are also designed to “prevent unintended consequences for vulnerable tenants, including survivors of domestic violence and individuals with disabilities.”

Under the new licensing scheme, compliant properties would be inspected only once every four years, while non-compliant ones would be inspected at least once a year. And properties involved in enforcement actions would be publicly identified by the city.

Owners and operators of “Tier II” properties also would be required to attend a training course focusing on crime prevention, security, tenant screening and other issues.

And the ordiance would bar owners from taking punitive action against tenants who make good-faith calls to law enforcement about suspected criminal activity at the property.

Assuming aldermen like what they hear tonight, staff plans to introduce the ordinance revisions on Feb. 8. The new Neighborhood Integrity Ordinance is proposed to go into effect July 1, with the rental registration ordinance revisions effective next Jan. 1.

Related stories

Officials report progress on nuisance properties (12/16/15)

City officials plan crackdown on problem properties (11/16/15)

City plans nuisance property crackdown (11/16/15)

Death prompts ‘drug house’ concerns (11/4/15)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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4 Comments

  1. Is that a yearly fee?

    I'm not sure I understand the licensing fee. Is it currently $20/$100 per unit per year, or per month? $80/year doesn't seem like much of a deterrant.

  2. Publish names/addresses of offenders

    Why not make the public aware of owners, landlords and management companies that keep the properties in poor shape or house criminals/trouble makers?

    Years ago the city published the name of a major property manager and got results.

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