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.