Landlords question need for licensing
BY BOB OKON firstname.lastname@example.org August 23, 2013 8:19PM
Updated: September 26, 2013 6:49AM
Joliet made what were considered major changes in its rental housing ordinance less than three years ago, and some landlords are asking: Why again?
The city has proposed licensing landlords, an idea that will be discussed during an annual Landlords Conference on Monday and Tuesday.
“Major changes were made three years ago,” said Tom Joseph, a government affairs representative in the Joliet area for the Illinois Association of Realtors. “It hasn’t been explained yet why the city needs these (new) changes.”
Joseph said there is a fundamental issue that arises when the city proposes licensing all rental property.
“It’s a property rights issue,” he said. “Why should I pay a licensing fee to rent my own property out?”
The proposed licensing fee is $20 per unit. That can add up to a lot of money, especially in buildings with dozens of units, said Dave Smith, an attorney representing landlords in the debate that already has started about the proposal.
“I’m not aware of any other business in Joliet that is regulated in that fashion,” Smith said. “This per-unit charge, I simply don’t see the need for it.”
But just as landlords resist more regulation, neighborhood associations over the years have pushed for stricter rules and monitoring of rental housing. Concerns about dilapidated buildings, drug houses and other issues have brought community leaders to city hall looking for new rules.
It was neighborhood groups that led the charge for the new rental regulations that were approved in March 2011.
Those rules included a first-time requirement that landlords register with the city — but not all landlords. The rules exempted landlords of single-family homes and owner-occupied, two-unit buildings. Under the proposed licensing changes, they would be registered as well.
The landlords license “captures all of the rest of the rentals in the city,” said Alfredo Melesio, director of the city’s Neighborhood Services Department.
Melesio said he and city staff have just begun to sit down with landlord representatives to discuss the proposed license. The proposal was discussed this month at a meeting of the Joliet City Council Land Use Committee that was attended by landlords.
Councilman Terry Morris, who chairs the Land Use Committee, said he is concerned about the per-unit fee but does see the need to “have some database on all the landlords.”
Smith, however, questioned the effectiveness of the city’s registration efforts, saying that responsible landlords will sign up and pay the fee while others go unregistered.
“At the end of the day,” Smith said, “it’s those that are cooperating who are paying for those who don’t.”
The city will hold two sessions for the Landlords Conference, which is primarily held to explain city rental ordinances and discuss issues such as the eviction process that are relevant to landlords. The evening session will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Monday. The morning meeting will be from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesday. The conference is at Jacob Henry Mansion, 15 S. Richards St.