Despite a chorus of protests from landlords at the meeting, a city committee Tuesday night advanced a bundle of tenant rights measures.

But perhaps the most controversial measure — a so-called “just cause eviction” proposal — was referred to a smaller working group of the Housing & Community Development Committee for further study

The proposals are all part of a planned rewrite of the city’s landlord tenant ordinance and were advanced by Ald. Devon Reid (8th), who was evicted from his apartment earlier this year after failing to pay rent for several months.

Reid said it’s important for the municipality to provide legal rights for tenants.

“Who is really paying the property taxes and maintenance costs on rental buildings in Evanston?” Reid asked. “It’s not the landlords. It’s the tenants paying rent to the landlord.”

“The tenant is providing the landlord with wealth,” he added. “Landlords are leveraging their financial resources to acquire property and charge other people to be able to make a profit on the fact that they have enough wealth to acquire property in the first place.”

Measures approved by the committee on 5-1 votes for incorporation into the updated ordinance include:

  • Right to pay and stay — At any time before a court-ordered eviction, a tenant who paid all back rent owed plus landlord’s costs and fees would be allowed to avoid eviction. A tenant could only exercise that right once. City staff claim the measure would give tenants an opportunity to obtain emergency assistance funds.
  • Ban collection of attorney fees — Landlords would be unable to recover the cost of having legal representation in pursuing eviction cases.
  • Domestic violence — Restate in lease agreements the state law baring limitations on tenant’s right to contact law enforcement or seek emergency assistance.
  • Right to organize — Expand the existing right to create a tenant organization to include leafleting and use of common areas in the building.

A fifth measure — giving tenants a Right of First Refusal to buy a rental property any time it went on the market — received a 3-3 tie vote but will still be included in the proposed ordinance to be reviewed at the committee’s September meeting.

That measure would let tenants force a delay in the sale of a property for up to 120 days while they attempted to secure financing to purchase the property.

It is an expansion of an existing city ordinance that now only applies to individual tenants seeking to buy their unit when a rental apartment buildings is converted to condominiums.

Three representatives of tenant advocacy groups made presentations in favor of the “just cause eviction” concept, which they claimed would stop discriminatory behavior by landlords.

Such ordinances, adopted in some other jurisdictions, typically restrict the reasons that a landlord can evict a tenant to non-payment of rent, violation of lease terms, creation of a nuisance and the owner’s intent to occupy the unit.

Given Illinois’ statewide ban on rent control, it would appear that a tenant’s failure to agree to a rent increase would have to also qualify as just cause in Evanston.

Several landlords said adding such a provision could make life intolerable for good tenants in a building, because the courts now make it difficult for landlords to evict over nuisance behaviors by problem tenants.

Mary Rosinski said in 32 years renting an apartment in her two-flat she’s had mostly good tenants, but had two people who paid the rent but “were miserable and hated my kids.”

“I don’t want to create lifetime tenants,” Rosinski added.

Another speaker, former Chicago Ald. Joe Moore (49th), said, “Problem tenants create havoc across buildings.”

“It’s very difficult to move those folks out unless they’re behind in their rent,” Moore said, “so one of the things we did working with the community was just to urge landlords, when their lease was up, not to renew it.”

“That was a very useful tool to ensure order in the community,” Moore added.

But Sue Loellbach, of Connections for the Homeless, said her organization, which operates homeless shelters in Evanston, supports adding just cause eviction rules.

“It’s incredibly important for people to stay in housing,” Loellbach said, adding “Cycling in and out of housing is really disastrous for people’s lives.”

Reid won the committee’s backing to create a working group for the just cause evictions issue, which he designed to have only two members from the nine-member committee, explicitly to evade state Open Meeting Act requirements.

Reid and landlord Hugo Rodriguez were chosen as members of the working group.

Reid said that as chair of the working group he planned to appoint three more people not members of the HCDC committee — a landlord, a tenant and a representative of a tenant advocacy group — as additional members of the working group with a goal of bringing a draft just cause eviction proposal back to the HCDC committee by October.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Economics 101 for Mr Reid IF you have a job and you have income beyond daily living expenses you take that money and buy i bonds, invest in the stock market or buy income property. Sometimes this purchase takes years of hard work It’s not being selfish or flaunting your “ wealth”

  2. Reid’s logic (or lack there of) regarding landlords’ wealth makes absolutely no sense. Owning rental properties is a business. Business owners need to make money to cover costs and make a profit in order to remain in business. It is that simple.

    Reid is simply grinding his axe due to his past experiences with being a horrible, nightmare tenant. This is a gross misuse of his aldermanic status.

    Once again Evanston is considering more anti-business measures, putting another check mark in the “why not to do business (or live) in Evanston” column.

    1. It’s not that Reid is factually incorrect about anything he says. It’s that he says it as if he’s 15 years old and just realized yesterday that oh, that’s what landlords do. And more so that he has a problem with it, as if they should be providing a public service out of the goodness of their li’l hearts.

  3. Weird, you would think that landlords didn’t own the property and weren’t in business to make money rather than providing shelter to freeloaders like Devon Reid.

  4. I’ve had the misfortune of posting a complaint on Twitter regarding the overly punitive tenant/landlord ordinance in Chicago. There are few topics that attract Twitter trolls more than landlord complaints.

    They hold a worldview that any housing beyond one’s sole residence should be a public good, and anyone that has the audacity to lease out this public good is inherently evil. I was told that I needed to “get a real job”, which is funny because I already had one. Devon Reid is a kindred spirit among this group.

    At a time when we need more housing, not less, it would seem that ordinances like this create more obstacles to address that shortage.

  5. Is there an actual problem with unjust evictions or terrible landlords in Evanston? Or is this just another solution looking for a problem?

    1. I think its a problem – Reid – looking for a solution that doesnt involve him getting a job and paying what he rightfully owes for his rent. He lives for free then attacks the people who let him do that. Fine role model for a politician.

  6. For sake of conversation excluding the predatory landlord, the overwhelming majority of landlords are good—-the tenant pays their rent and follows building rules and the landlord provides tenant with all due respect to tenant rights—-but sometimes a landlord gets the clever dead beat tenant—-the person that knows all the angles in stalling payments due—-the landlord relies on that money to make a living and over many months of lost income and legal expenses incurred in getting tenant to pay gets really aggravated—-so aggravated that landlord has signs made announcing who the dead beat is and posts them in front of the building to embarrass tenant into paying—-yes, it’s possible the clever dead beat can be that aggravating to warrant such a reaction from the landlord—-and let’s say such matters gets really mind numbing, as in the possibility of the dead beat tenant actually holds power over city law pertaining to landlords!—-such an instance is incredibly hard to believe but as said, it could happen—-so maybe there are reasons that certain laws exist that not only protect tenants but landlords as well—-this is a delicate balancing act to try to ensure both sides fair legislation without becoming a financial and bureaucratic nightmare—-and the example I’ve highlighted in the comment is purely fiction, right?

  7. So, according to Reid, if a tenant stops paying rent, or a landlord has repairs/expenses greater than the rent he collects, then the landlord doesn’t have to pay real estate taxes, because “it’s the renters that pay the tax”. Wow, if I’d known this I’d have put all my savings into rental properties!!
    And I wonder how, if Mr. Reid is responsible enough to hold public office and represent thousands of constituents, he isn’t responsible enough to hold down a job that would enable him to pay his own rent. I don’t recall reading that he had any illness or disability that made him suddenly unable to work. Did I miss something that explains that?

  8. With Reid, the deeper you dig, the darker the mud! I love John Brinkmans’ take. Very spot in.

  9. Time to start really pressing council for a change so Evanston has a recall statute and we can get rid of irresponsible and toxic representatives. Write your councilperson and tell them this is something we need now. If we don’t push our representatives to do what we want the fault is ours.

  10. If a fraternity did this, ” Levin said, “they’d be thrown off campus.”
    In fact, Northwestern has kicked fraternities off campus for infractions, including serving alcohol and accusations of sexual abuse at fraternity parties. They continue their activities (loud, overcrowded parties) in the rental houses near campus. Thus, leaving Evanston neighborhoods to deal with Northestern’s problems.

  11. A man who chooses to not pay his rent is tasked with writing the rental rules? Who’s in charge of this hot mess?

    While “Alderman” Reid trumpets his Marxist tune — destroy the capitalists — Evanston’s citizens look to their leaders and hear nothing. Perhaps the city manager, mayor and aldermen agree? Maybe they are ignorant of the issue? Either of these two reasons are disqualifying.

    Elections are coming and I pray nightly that they come swiftly.

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