It is election season and a number of people have raised the issue of the Village needing to adopt a “crime free housing ordinance”. The elements of this ordinance adopted by numerous other communities were pioneered by Schiller Park over 35 years ago. Adopting an ordinance with the title of “crime free” does not ensure the elimination of crime in the Village’s housing units. Those who are expounding on this need today, are sophomoric and are demonstrating their lack of competency in governing. The Village aggressively regulates the rental properties and their tenants in Schiller Park. The Village has over 1500 buildings included in the inspection program. The current Village inspections entail a comprehensive multi-department interdisciplinary program that goes well beyond the elements of what has been defined in many other communities as a “crime free housing ordinance” .
In 1978, the elected officials of the Village of Schiller Park adopted a comprehensive code enforcement ordinance for multi – family buildings in the Village. In 1994 and again in 2009, this ordinance was updated. Over half of the bedrooms in Schiller Park are in multi-family buildings.
Schiller Park provided leadership in being among the first communities in the State of Illinois to launch an aggressive inspection and regulation program. In 1978, I went to the Mayor, Ed Bluthardt and Trustee, Arthur Melmer, who chaired the Building Code committee and asked them to review the deteriorating conditions in the rental properties in the Village. After a Saturday morning presentation the Village Board supported the adoption of a Property Maintenance Code and authorized the expenditure of funds to hire 6 off duty firemen to conduct the program. I headed that program from 1978 through 1993. The program not only provided an aggressive inspection program but also an equally aggressive enforcement program. During that period of time the program dealt with a seriously deteriorating apartment complex known as Kelvin Lane which constituted thirty 6 flats, an aging restaurant and an eighteen flat in the area. This program resulted in the acquisition of the properties and the conversion of them to a high value hotel known as the Residence Inn by Marriot. This property then provided a substantial amount of hotel-motel tax for the Village of Schiller Park. During this period, the Village of Schiller Park confronted a foreclosure proceeding for a condo property known as Manderly Place (9514 West Lawrence Avenue). Ultimately, this property was included in the hotel complex. And the aging restaurant, was redeveloped as the “Library” , a new restaurant. All of this was done without additional tax dollars.
At the same time, the taxpayers have additional firemen available during the daytime hours with the occupancy of the town increases with office workers and workers in businesses. The fire department personnel gained an intimate knowledge of the structures and their occupants, resulting in developing a better trained fireman for delivering fire fighting services to the residents. This program continues on the foundation developed thirty five years ago with the fire inspection personnel operating out of the building department. They operate an integrated inspection program, enlisting the assistance of the police department as needed.
This inspection program has continued with it being updated in 1994, and again in 2009.
When the program was updated in 1994, the Village faced a federal lawsuit .
This lawsuit involved issues surrounding consent to inspect each tenant’s apartment.
In order to give a valid consent to a search, consent for the search must be
voluntary. In determining voluntariness of the consent to the search, the totality of the
circumstances surrounding the search must be considered. See Makula v. Village of
Schiller Park, 1995 WL 755305 *5 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 14, 1995). Under the Waukegan
Ordinance, if a landlord wishes to rent a unit, that landlord is compelled to give consent
to have the rental unit inspected because the business license to rent the unit will be
suspended, revoked and/or not renewed absent an inspection. Consequently, the
landlord’s consent is not voluntary. See Id.; Makula v. Village of Schiller Park, 1998 WL
246043 *7 (N.D. Ill. 1998; Sololov v. Village of Freeport, 52 N.Y.2d 341, 420 N.E.2d
55, 57 (1981)(Nor may it be said that the business of residential rental is of such a
nature that consent to a warrantless administrative search may be implied from the
choice of the appellant to engage in this business.)
In Makula v. Village of Schiller Park, No. 95C2400, 1998 WL 246043 (N.D. Ill. 1998), Judge Coar struck down the portion of the ordinance that required an owner to agree to the administrative search as a prerequisite to the issuance or renewal of the landlord’s business license.
Again in 2009, the Village updated the housing code enforcement ordinances again, resulting in a lawsuit in the Cook County Circuit Court. A Judge gives a voice to the tenants: http://illegalapartmentinspections.org/renters/judge-renters-voice-inspections
The Village of Schiller Park has the requirements of the inspection ordinance posted on line at : http://www.villageofschillerpark.com/departments/communitydevelopment/building_safetydivision/multifamlicenses.aspx .
The actual ordinances can be viewed at this link: http://www.amlegal.com/nxt/gateway.dll/Illinois/schillerpark_il/newmillenniumcodeofthevillageofschillerp?f=templates$fn=default.htm$3.0$vid=amlegal:schillerpark_il
As in a lot of issues in government, the elected officials have adopted legislation to regulate the rental properties. It is the responsibility of those professionals hired by the elected officials to implement these laws and regulations. We need to look at what we are doing with what we already have before we adopt more laws and regulations. There are those who think that the Village has already gone too far.
As one example, the inspectors may need to start with getting Eden Cemetery to eliminate the eyesore of the “dead end” yard that they have created of non operational vehicles on the west side of the cemetery along Scott Street which is in full view of the residents of the homes who live on Scott Street and seen by everyone going to our water park during the summer.
It is election season, and everyone should think before they speak about what they may know very little about. It is tricky balancing act to protect the rights and interests of all of the residents of Schiller Park. Deeming in a title, “A Crime Free Housing Ordinance” does not eliminate crime. The methodology of enforcement is what is the crux of the solution.