Evanston’s Housing Subcommittee split 2-2 Thursday evening on whether the city should switch from registering landlords to licensing them.

So the issue will be returned to the Planning and Development Committee with no recommendation.

One licensing advocate, Ald. Bobby Burns (5th), said licensing is needed to deal with bad landlords who refuse to repair problems with their properties.

He said it would make it possible to deny the landlord the ability to collect income from a property until repairs were made.

The other licensing backer on the committee, Ald. Devon Reid (8th), said licensing would be a way to get rid of the “worst actors” among landlords, people, he said, who “will never sell their buildings and will never pay the fines.”

Landlords who have turned out for the subcommittee’s meetings have strongly opposed shifting to a licensing model.

Tina Paden.

Tina Paden of Paden Properties said the city over the years had taken her family to circuit court on seven different occasions, and to the appeals court twice, and the city lost each of the cases.

“If my mom wasn’t a lawyer, we would have been bankrupt,” Paden said.

She said that instead of licensing the city needs to develop a fair and equitable inspection process.

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) said she wanted to know why Skokie, which considered adopting a rental licensing program a decade ago, ended up with a rental registration program instead.

Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) said she hadn’t seen any evidence that licensing would make a difference — and that it also has been used as a tool against tenants rather than landlords — that if a landlord’s license were revoked, tenants would end up being evicted.

Kelly said the city’s current fines for property standards violations are ridiculously low and should be increased dramatically. She said she also wants to have major violations carry heavier fines than minor ones.

Revelle said it is clear that the city needs to increase the size of its inspection staff and purchase new computer software that would make it easier to track cases and see patterns in violations.

The subcommittee plans to continue discussing those issues as well as whether the city should lift its current ban on having more than three unrelated people live in a dwelling unit at future meetings.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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3 Comments

  1. Whenever you erect barriers to competition, you get less of it. Licensing makes it more difficult to become a landlord. Fewer landlords mean fewer options for residents. Improving the inspection process makes more sense.

  2. I’m curious how many “Landlords” (such a feudal name) were invited to a panel discussion to flush out these ideas? I have been a rental property owner/manager in Evanston for 33 years and I have never been asked to weigh in on something that would greatly affect me and my tenants. And what about this $30 annual “registration” fee… what extra services am I getting and what is my benefit?

    Respectfully, Brian G. Becharas

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