Members of the Evanston City Council’s Planning and Development Committee are scheduled to take another look tonight at a proposal to require that all rental units in the city be licensed.

Up for discussion — but not for action — will be a report from a special mayoral committee that approved on a 4-3 vote a number of modifications to a proposed ordinance on the issue prepared by city staff.

As Evanston Now reported after the committee vote last month, the proposed ordinance would replace existing city rules that require landlords to register their properties.

It would establish penalties for renting an unlicensed unit that could reach as high as $2,500 a day.

And it creates a process for revoking licenses for building code and other violations after a hearing by the city manager.

As with other administrative decisions, the manager’s decision to revoke a license would be appealable to circuit court.

Rental licenses would have to be renewed every year.

Although Community and Economic Development Director Steve Griffin said the city currently knows of about 40 properites that have serious code violations, the ordinance would impose a license fee of $26 on each of the nearly 14,000 rental units in town, except for those in owner-occupied two-unit buildings, which would be exempt from the licensing scheme.

It became apparent during Thursday’s meeting that the ordinance would have little if any impact on a major complaint of residents living near Northwestern University — loud parties at buildings rented by students.

Because of protections in state law against arbitrary evictions, Ken Cox, an assistant city attorney, said, a landlord must go through a lengthy court process to win an eviction.

And while the city might be able to use the licensing law to goad a landlord into filing an eviction case, it would not have grounds for revoking a licenses as long as the landlord was pursuing the eviction in court.

While the license fees might raise $250,000 or more in new city revenue, Griffin said, the city still wouldn’t be able to inspect most rental units frequently.

The committee amended an ordinance provision that would  have required an inspection once every four years to instead only permit inspections that often.

The ordinance generally has been opposed by landlords, but has drawn support from some aldermen and single-family homeowners who live near rental buildings.

The aldermen tonight could direct staff to incorporate any or all of the committee’s recommendations into the draft ordinance, or conceivably could decide to take the debate in a completely different direction.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Apply to owners who rent out condo units ?

    This question has been raised before but i've never seen an answer.

    If owners rent out their unit does this apply ?  If so is the owner or Association responsible ?

    What about rental of houses ?

    With the housing crisis and prices down, many who have to move [jobs, etc.] cannot sell for a reasonable price and/or have to move before they can reasonably sell.   For some this law and others that may follow such as annual inspections, could drive down prices more—it will certainly raise the anger level of residents.

    I hope the Council gets the "dollar signs" out of their eyes and realize the effect these laws have on the economy.

    1. It seems to apply to condos

      From the article:

      "the ordinance would impose a license fee of $26 on each of the nearly 14,000 rental units in town, except for those in owner-occupied two-unit buildings, which would be exempt from the licensing scheme."

      So, yes, it seems it would apply to condo units, where the condo association allows rentals. In many cases, there are limits imposed by the bylaws of the condo — the reason for it appears to be financing (if there are too many rental units in a building, it is harder and/or more costly to get a mortgage).


  2. Renting properties is a business; they should be licensed

    Evanston is replete with slum lords who prey off neighborhoods by extracting money from rentals but fail to keep up their property.

    On my block you could EASILY identify the rental properties–no landscaping, trash strewn over the yard, and consistent police calls due to the crimes committed by their tenants. 

    The properties owned by folks who live in the neighborhood are all taken care of and placid.

    Slumlords are making a profit off of our communities.  Just like other businesses, they should be licensed. 

    1. Licensing won’t solve your concerns.

      While it's unfair to throw a wide net over Evanston landlords as "slumlords", and while your notion that they are all making a profit is wildly mistaken (many landlords are not making a profit or losing money), the concerns you raise are and can be addressed by existing laws.

      It's unlawful now to not landscape, throw trash thoughout the yard, and commit crimes — licensing will do nothing to solve those issues, especially if those laws are not currently enforced as it is.

      Lastly, rental properties are not "like other businesses" — while often repeated by proponents of rental licensing, it just is not true.  Existing laws and the courts do not view rental properties as just another business — these are people's homes that require greater due process and private property rights than any ol' business.  Additionally, licensing is not something that a government enacts just because it can.  A growing view in the public policy arena is that licensing has run amuck on licensing, often furthers no public good, and serves to diminish competition.

  3. The city is going to get more

    The city is going to get more and more plunderous for revenue as the economy dips back into recession.  There will be no end to schemes to "generate revenue."  Be careful out there folks.     

    1. Let’s Tax

      I agree. The city is on a relentless march to tax everything they can think of. Everything they do results in fees taxes, and processes that raise prices for everybody. The mayor, city manager, and the council are making decisions that are destroying Evanston.

      If you don't believe this, I'll sell you a 2 million dollar parking lot.

  4. LIcensing and Political corruption

    I am not  an owner of rental property.  But this entire issue, is very typical of the city.  The issue is Wally wants revenue, so he comes up with an idea to license rental properties. 

    It is interesting last night a council a citizen comes to the meeting and complains about the city of Evanston's screwed up NSP-2 grant house next to her home with numerous code issues and the problems she has faced.The city staff comes running up to her, question where is staff over site on this whole project its starting to look like another piece of pork.

    The city is the biggest slum land lord in town with its numerous code violation, Wally and friends recently violated the ADA knowingly when they moved ECTV into the city service building.  Does anyone on the counci or the Mayor care? Interesting last night when someone complained about an ADA problem at Fleetwood, the alderpersons wanted it looked into.  Why the lack of concern about the service building?

    Mr Handler asking for FOIs on the code violatons and the city refusal to give them to him, shows me also the problem is not so great, staff is covering up another screw up.

    Mr Handler is also correct, the citys claim it can't do anything is bongus, what has the city done to date on the 40 properites out of 14,000 plus it claims are problems?

  5. Whos next ?

    A friend said he asked a woman who he use to see selling poppies [on Veterans Day?] why he was not seeing people selling them.  She said the city wanted them to register, pay a fee and have insurance !  I can imagine what veterans must think of them. True.

    Evanston is getting to be like the Woody Allen movie ‘Bananas’ where a Latin American dictator declares the national language will be Swedish and to make sure everyone is wearing clean underwear, they must wear it on the outside.  How long before Evanston gets there ?

  6. Who is brave enough ?

    Who would dare show up at a Council meeting to protest this and many laws ?

    You know the Council members and their aids will be taking names [no I'm not paranoid] and you will then be first on their list to visit/fine twhen they pass [you know they will] the law—that was decided the day they came up with it.

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