Despite objections from several landlords, a city committee Tuesday night agreed to dramatically increase the advance notice landlords have to give tenants that they aren’t going to renew a lease.

The city’s existing residential landlord tenant ordinance requires 30 days notice. The Housing and Community Development Committee directed staff to prepare an ordinance amendment that would increase that period to 90 days.

Landlords argued that the change would encourage problem tenants to stop paying their rent three months before the lease expired rather than one month.

And, they said, given the slow pace of the eviction process in Cook County, landlords would have no hope of ever recouping the lost revenue.

Proponents of the change say 30 days isn’t enough time for a tenant to find a new apartment.

The committee is in the midst of considering a wide array of amendments to the ordinance, which was first adopted decades ago and has been modified several times since.

More than a dozen landlords spoke during public comment in opposition to various aspects of the set of proposed changes developed by city staff and representatives of tenant advocacy groups.

Among other provisions, the proposed changes would also restrict late fees to what a staff memo suggests would be equivalent to the late fee on a water payment.

But a landlord noted that the city imposes a 10% late fee on water payments, while the staff proposal would limit landlords to charging a 1% late fee on the first $1,000 of rent and only 5% on rent amounts above that.

The committee postponed discussion of several other issues, including what’s likely to be one of the most contentious proposals — requiring so-called “just cause” for lease non-renewals — until its July meeting.

The package of changes the committee ultimately recommends is expected to reach City Council for a final vote sometime this fall.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. The statement “Proponents of the change say 30 days isn’t enough time for a tenant to find a new apartment” appears unsubstantiated and unfounded. It would be helpful to review the evidence, research study, or other findings to back up the proposed change to (90) days.
    Conversely, Timeout Chicago states: “One month out is the ideal time to look: ‘Start looking about a month before the day you want to begin your lease…’”
    In my opinion, (45) days should give the landlord enough time to minimize any losses and for the renter to find a suitable apartment at a different location.

  2. A 1% late fee is insane. Like the proposed 90-day notice for non-rewal that might encourage some tenants not pay their final few month’s rent, the proposed little itty-bitty late fee will likely encourage bad tenants to pay late, maybe even very late. Late fees are supposed to discourage late payments, i.e. cell phone bill, credit card, mortgage, etc. The late fee for those is a set rate regardless of the payment amount owed.

    In my experience as a landlord in Wisconsin, I had a tenant pay late, in their words, “just to (expletive) with” me because I insisted that they not park their car in the yard. And somehow I’m still the bad guy.

    I’m tired of landlords being labeled as the bad guys. Good landlords treat their tenants with respect and expect tenants to treat them the same. Bad landlords don’t do that.

    Good landlords know that there are “forgivable” reasons and situations for a tenant paying late. I’m not aware of any law or ordinace, in Wisconsin at least, that prohibits waiving the late fee. I’ve done it many times and think it creates an ever better feeling of mutual respect and satisfaction between me and my tenants. I liken this to the theory that happy employees make better employees.

    Yes, there are plenty of bad landlords out there and they’re getting plenty of media attention. But when it comes to some popular public opinions, as well as some new laws and regulations, it feels like bad tenants aren’t getting the attention they deserve.

  3. The City is just crazy. It is ready to tell private businesses how to operate, private homeowners what they can and can’t do with their property, but are unwilling to insist on any standards for how people conduct themselves among others.

    1. Sorry, YAHP, you are just not the expert on not paying rent. Look to Councilwhatever Reid. He’s the expert.

  4. Both parties are absolutely correct. 30 days is nowhere near enough time to look for an apartment. And to assume the only reason a landlord would choose to not renew a lease is incorrect. Landlords often cancel leases in favor of family members or for higher rents. To tell a family to find a new home, make moving arrangements, and to incur all of those expenses with 30 days notice is just awful and will lead to homelessness. In the case of bad tenants yes it could increase the financial losses to the landlord of two months rent. I think avoiding the former is worth the risk of the latter. As far as late fees go… The landlords have a point but when you have a family struggling to pay rent I don’t think adding higher fees helps anyone. That would just make it even less likely the renters will pay outstanding balances.

    1. It is nice to have more than 30 days to initially explore the market, i.e. to determine generally what you can get where for how much, but the reality is for apartments that are not overpriced, they go quick. And you generally need to move in within one month of signing a lease so not sure how much more time is helpful.

      I think 45 days is the right amount of time – 15 days to size up the market and 30 days to apartment hunt as someone ready to sign a contract.

  5. I echo YAHP….

    I’ve lived in this leafy town on the shores of Lake Michigan at 4 different addresses for 5 decades now, virtually all of my adult life.

    Evanston is as idyllic a place as any, but post the Honorable Loraine Morton, solid adult leadership seems to have been replaced with what is best characterized as bad judgement by inexperienced agenda-driven vs citizen- first elected officials.

    Reid as City Clerk was massively disruptive and anything but a team player. Now as an Alderman his narcissistic behavior with an unending and unrelenting set of off-topic proposals has bogged down the city council and by extension, the friction-free operation of all city department.

    Mayor Biss’s track record and ambitions may be building the progressive resume that he seeks, for higher office, but doing so to the very real detriment of the people and businesses here.

    Evanston in lurching in the wrong direction.

    Remember the slogan:


    “Dining capital of the North Shore”

    No more. What Covid started, the council has now ensured.

    I invite all to visit the corner of Wilmette Avenue and Central Avenue in Wilmette, arguably the unquestioned new said dining capital.

    Apparently our council is more interested in attracting the homeless of Cook County and beyond, rather that enhancing our town as an ever more attractive place to live, work and learn, with the benefit of a robust tax line on the ledger.

  6. Evanston, Cook County officials need to be schooled that Robin Hood policies ( Socialism ) never work.

  7. Well renewals are 60 days out from end of lease. So a tenant would have to get a renewal if they were to be offered one. If they don’t than the assumption is they will not be renewed. Read the writing on the wall and start your apartment search.

  8. Wow, I am completely astonished @ the lack of knowledge and/or consideration given to an already broken system that allows tenants to abuse their obligations & not to mention the damage incurred on properties that is never recovered due to a lack of enforcement by city government as is. Obviously they have never had the experience of dealing with the loss that landlords incur time after time because the tenant knows there is no recourse of their actions. Shame on you city officials for thinking you are protecting the tenant. How about the landlord that tends to lose thousands of dollars from lost revenue & damages to their properties!

    1. The “problem” with many of our city officials is that they believe:

      1. Capitalism and the profit motive are “bad”

      2. All landlords and business owners are “evil”

      With the ever – more onerous and picayune “rules” that this lot puts into place, they fail to realize that reasonably – priced rental housing will become even *more* expensive and scarce than it already is…

      Gregory Morrow – Evanston 4th Ward resident

  9. Here we go again with our unqualified council sticking their noses where they don’t belong.

  10. After reading this article, we are left to wonder whether the landlords offered data to substantiate their position, or whether they merely “spoke.” Neither side of this argument is meaningful without (1) hard numbers pertaining to the likely results of such a policy, and (2) an empirical metric describing what this policy is intended to accomplish. It appears both positions are arguing from their intuitions—a disastrous way to make policy.

  11. Generally speaking, if you over-regulate or over tax sellers with regulations or taxes that have adverse affects on the seller, you will encourage sellers to exit the marketplace. In this case that will result in less apartments for rent as more sellers instead look to convert to other uses such as condos. How many Evanston landlords are near the tipping point to condo conversion?

    I would love to hear someone make an argument of how this time-proven economic principle does not apply here.

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