Serving Skokie rental property owners, renters and homeowners
"Tenant Tax" Ordinance History
5/01/14 - A new ordinance information page appears on the Skokie Village web site, at http://www.skokie.org/NeighborhoodIntegrityInitiative.cfm It sets May 1st, 2014 as the start date for Landlord/Tenant registration. No word on outstanding court challenges to the ordinance.... or of any challenges to landlords who don't comply.
3/10/14 - Months have passed and still no word yet from the Village on the approved ordinance. This is most likely due to personal visits Mr. Lorge has received from representatives of the ACLU and other citizens rights groups. The Village's initial draft of their landlord training program ran over 300 pages and insulted several groups in the process. The childish composition, the use of dinosaur graphics, and the strange tangents it took - such as pictures of gang tattoos and different types of street drugs, intended to scare residents - certainly did not help the document's credibility. SILA members personally took great offense to the use of pictures and news stories supposedly illustrating apartments which were in deplorable condition and where dangerous residents resided. BUT THE APARTMENTS & TENANTS FEATURED WHERE NOT EVEN LOCATED IN SKOKIE. They were from farther suburbs (where the ordinance is already in place) and some were even from out of state. (The size of the Village's presentation prevents posting a copy here, but copies are being made available to all SILA members upon request.)
SILA's current recommendation to landlords is to do nothing until all court challenges are decided. If given the choice between complying with the new ordinance and risking a personal lawsuit by a resident, violating state or federal housing laws or doing something that risks your personal safety, choose non-compliance. Non-compliance with the ordinance does not break any laws, like compliance might. Non-compliance won't result in a civil or criminal lawsuit, like compliance might. Of course you need to make your own decisions, or consult with your personal professionals, but currently at least two groups are planning to bring lawsuits against the Village and it will be some time before this is all decided in the courts.
1/20/14 - Residents and community activists thought they'd won a reprieve, when the final revision of the ordinance didn't get published until January 3rd - two business days before the scheduled vote. They became certain of a delay when weather reports predicted January 6th would be one of the coldest days in city history. With the temperature well below zero, the Village closed the schools and the mayor warned residents to stay in their homes. But the vote on this ordinance would not be postponed, regardless of calls that it was a violation of Illinois' "Open Meetings Act" and would certainly prevent the many elderly, poor or disabled property owners and residents from attending.
It was everything that the Village could have hoped for to pass this ordinance with as little public comment as possible. So the Board was surprised at the standing room only crowd that showed up, but they had a couple more tricks up their sleeve. First, they invited over twenty social service organizations which had applied for grant money to get up, one at a time, and talk about their organizations. By 9:45 PM, when the ordinance finally came up, the crowd had thinned out, but not enough. The board then announced that only 10 people would be allowed to speak against the ordinance (in the end they only allowed 9) and each would get only 3 minutes to speak. (You can a few of the speeches here.) But it wasn't enough, and at 11:15 PM the ordinance passed - with several Trustees saying that they didn't believe the ordinance was perfect, but was better than nothing.
12/27/13 - Over the last couple weeks, several SILA executive officers met independently with Michael Lorge, recently transitioned from Trustee to Village Corporation Counsel, and John Lockerby, recently promoted to Village Manager, to try and explain our concerns with the proposed ordinance. They had hoped to explain why the alternative proposal will have more positive results for the community without earning the wrath of residents, civic organizations and legal justice groups. Instead they were informed that Lorge had decided not to consider the alternative proposal. The Village Board itself, kept quiet on the issue and simply deferred to their old fellow Trustee, refusing to comment on the matter.
After numerous civic organizations and public action groups (including the ACLU) wrote the Village opposing the ordinance and outlined their concerns. Mr. Lorge continued to revamp the ordinance numerous times, but he refused to listen to the people with the most experience and who were closest to the problem - the Landlords. Both Landlords and Realtors agree that this ordinance will only hurt Skokie, rather than help it. Legal battles and non-compliance are promised, costing residents more tax dollars, with still no resolution to the growing fear of crime in the village. The aging housing stock in the village will continue to deteriorate and the flight of good residents will increase. But Lorge was confident that the ordinance would pass in whatever condition he presented it. So the vote was going ahead as planned on January 6th, following the release - OVER NEW YEAR'S EVE - of their latest draft. Sound familiar?
11/27/13 - Thanks to all who came to the village board meeting, and the efforts of SILA members, a final decision by the village board has been put off until January. The Mayor said to us, "instead of complaining, why don't you propose an alternative?" So we've done just that. We've created an alternative ordinance and sent copies to the board and other village officials. Here's what the letter said,
"On behalf of the Skokie Independent Landlords Association, we're writing to propose an alternative to the Landlord Ordinance presented to the Village Board last week. Based on conversations we've had with the Mayor, several of the Trustees, and meetings with Mr. Lorge and Mr. Lockerby over the last several days, we realized that criticizing the ordinance was not the proper method to get our opinions heard. For that we apologize. Our goals, same as everyone else's, are to create a safer, healthier and more economically vibrant community for Skokie. We want to work with the village and its residents to achieve those goal. We think that the attached proposal can do that, as well as addressing the concerns and accommodating most of the desires of the village board. The attached proposal has received the support of our members, as well as several community groups, social organizations and Realtors Associations. And we would appreciate the opportunity to present it to the village and the board at an upcoming Village Board meeting. We are open to any feedback and accommodating any additional concerns. We look forward to hearing from you."
A copy of the alternative ordinance proposed by SILA can be found here.
11/22/13 - Well the Trustee elections are over and the Village went back on its promise to the citizen's advisory council that the council members would be given copies of the revised proposal - this time with sufficient opportunity to review and comment, before it goes back in front of the board. Instead, with no word, they put the "revised?" (actually rewritten) proposal onto the boards agenda for November 18th. Fortunately, SILA got wind of this and copies of the new ordinance were distributed. Unfortunately the latest draft was only available a couple of business days before it came back before the board. Even so, over 150 residents showed up at the hearing to have their voices heard.
Following the hearing, SILA members talked with a number of village officials from the Mayor and several Trustees to the Village's new Corporate Council. The general response was that if we objected to the ordinance, rather than just complaining about what is wrong with it, we should propose something better. So that is exactly what SILA did. They rewrote the ordinance, so that it not only addresses issues of public safety - at the forefront of everyone's concern - but also encourages economic development of the community. It does away with the mandates and violations of civil liberties that had residents up in arms, while adding rewards for Landlords who use best practices and follow village recommended guidelines (and of course obey all existing laws and regulations) with an official "Certification".
11/14/13 - The village has revised the ordinance again! Residents have only 2 business days to read the latest version of the revised ordinance before it comes in front of the Village Board. What's changed? How about this little nugget: the Village now wants to create a registry with the name & social security number of every renter in the village. Not just apartment renters, this includes homes, coops and some condos. And not just the person who signed the lease, but every occupant too. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Check out all the other personal information they want landlords to collect for them here.
They also want to require an inspection of the property, and force remediation by the seller of any violations prior to the sale. This sounds good on first pass, but think about it. You're underwater on your mortgage and are selling your property at a loss. A buyer has offered you a reduced price based on his own inspection. Now you MUST find the money to make all repairs prior to the sale. Even if the new owner plans to gut the property or level it to the ground. And if no violations are found at the inspection? You still must put off closing for a minimum of 45 days to allow the village time to schedule the inspection.By then the buyer has moved on to look at properties in a different community.
11/07/13 - The Village has made a draft version of the revised bill available to the public. Less than two weeks before it appears before the board. Not much time to allow for serious review and discussion. Has it improved since we last saw it? Well they've traded licensing for registration, but they can still prevent a landlord from renting an empty apartment or from even selling their building. They can still demand a tenant be evicted, even if not found guilty of any crime. They still want to charge each tenant a yearly fee, though the fee may possibly be waived after three years. And they are still not doing anything to help property owners or to improve the housing stock in Skokie - much over half a century old.
11/01/13 -Well the elections are over and the Village is back to their old tricks again. Just as we predicted back in January (see below). They've gone back on their promise to the citizen's advisory council that the council members would be given copies of the revised proposal - this time with sufficient opportunity to review and comment, before it goes back in front of the board. Instead, with no word, they've gone ahead and put the "revised?" proposal back on the board agenda for November 18th. How bad can this proposal be? Bad enough that they don't want anyone to see it before they vote on it. Luckily, through SILA's vigilance, we caught them in the act again. We've demanded copies of the ordinance and an opportunity to have our voices heard. They can't distract us with police scandal and increasing village mayhem. Is violence really up in Skokie, as it appears, or are the police ignoring crime in order to scare citizens into pushing through this new tax and to win budget approval for their half million dollar dream police motor home? We hope everyone comes out to the Village Board meeting, Monday November 18th at 7pm at the Village Hall, to let city officials know that this type of politics might fly in Chicago, but the citizens of Skokie will not stand for it. Village officials work for us and we demand a say in any new laws, regulations or taxes.
2/20/13 - Trustee Perille presented the Board with feedback from the Advisory Council, but something got lost in translation. Stating that there was little consensus within the group, he seems to forget the votes that he took, where the council almost unanimously favored registration over licensing. There was also almost unanimous agreement that any revenue raised would be better spent on code enforcement or landlord support, rather than on an additional Skokie police officer. The council agreed on a number of other issues, but somehow the one area of consensus that Perille did recalled - the desire for more inspections - was not even one that ever came up in the council. Its possible that he misunderstood the council's desire to provide the village with more resources for enforcement with the need for inspections, but that was not the intent. We can only hope that the Board reads the full text of the council's input, rather than relying on the summary board report. The ordinance itself will remain tabled until after the Spring elections, which does not bode well for the Village. Keep this issue in mind as you head into the voting booths.
1/18/13 - The citizens advisory council wrapped up discussions in December and Committee Chair Trustee Perille has consolidating all the feedback and suggestions. Currently, the council members are reviewing the summary, then village officials will take the results and (hopefully) create a better ordinance to bring before the Village Board. Stay tuned to the SILA web site to keep up to date on the recommendations of the advisory council and any further actions by the Village. Most importantly, keep checking the board meeting agenda postings, to be alerted to another surprise vote.
12/04/12 - The citizens advisory council is wrapping up discussions. After many weeks of conversation, going over every paragraph of the original ordinance, most of the council has reached agreement on a number of issues. 1) Registration is vastly preferred over licensing; 2) Registration information should be of public record - possibly including the posting of contact information on the fronts of apartment buildings; 3) A tiered fee structure with dollar caps is needed; 3) Education classes should be offered to landlords, to make them aware of both building and tenant security issues, as well as of village ordinances; 4) An ongoing two-way dialog must be created between the village and area landlords; 5) Existing Federal, State and local ordinances, already enforced by various village departments, achieve all the same goals as the proposed ordinance. If not currently sufficiently enforced, existing village departments should be given the needed resources to do so, rather than creating new departments and regulations to duplicate the activities of existing staff; 6) An additional police officer, hired to deal only with property violations - and not allowed to patrol the streets, is an unnecessary expense, estimated by the village to cost as much as all the revenue generated by the ordinance. Additionally, a uniformed officer in this role may be perceived in a negative or threatening light by both landlords & tenants, creating a fear of reporting criminal activity, rather than as a village employee intended to create open dialog; 7) Revenue collected by registration, beyond what is required to manage the registration process, should be spent to improve village security, though multi-family property improvements as recommended by the Skokie PD; 8) The Village should make funds or financing available to apartment building owners for appearance and security improvements, as the village currently does for area homeowners and retail establishments.
10/24/12 - The Village held the first citizens advisory council meeting. There were representatives from the Village, Skokie PD, Skokie residents & tenants, fair housing representatives and several SILA members in attendance. It was two hours of speeches and outsider presentations - primarily by the Palatine PD, which passed a similar ordinance. While the policing program in Palatine sounded great, it doesn't really apply to Skokie, which has an entirely different make up of apartment buildings, resident demographics and security issues. Also, there has been no plan put forward that Skokie PD would support the ordinance in the same manner as Palatine, and of course, there wasn't any opposing opinion heard from Palatine residents.
10/1/12 - At the October 1st meeting of the Village Board, it was proposed and passed that what is being referred to as the "Skokie Tenant Tax" would be tabled, while a citizens advisory council (made up of Landlords, Tenants and other interested parties) be created to have an open dialog around both the proposed ordinance and the greater topics of community safety and quality of life issues. SILA wants to thank all those that came out to the meetings, spoke up and showed their support for this cause. We're not out of the woods yet, but at least the Village knows that the public is watching and they appear to be listening.
9/28/12 - The agenda for the Monday 10/1 board meeting was posted and it appears that the so called "ordinance amending chapter 22 by adding article XIV" is on the agenda for a vote. Weeks earlier than announced. No better way to hide a bill than to give it an unrecognizable name. Hopefully, there will be a motion to table the ordinance indefinitely, in order to create a citizen advisory council to review the plan and work out all the bugs before it is brought back for a vote. Watch this site for updates, or better yet, attend the meeting.
9/7/12 - The Village tries to sneak an ordinance through by holding public meetings before the proposal is even finalized. Then, with no notice, they post the ordinance online (with highlights and scratch outs) just days before voting on it at an unscheduled board meeting. Posting the ordinance on a Thursday night, preceding the Labor Day weekend, they felt certain no one would see it. The Village Board then planned to hold a rare Tuesday night board meeting, immediately after the holiday, to approve the ordinance. This would give Skokie residents less that one business day to review the plan - assuming they even discovered it had been posted. The board was understandably surprised to see the large turn out of citizens on September 4th, demanding time to review the ordinance so they could offer informed feedback on it. Fortunately, the board was swayed by all the citizens that spoke up and decided to table the proposal until 10/15 to give everyone a chance to read the ordinance before it is voted on.
Visit us on Facebook at Skokie Independent Landlord Association.