Crime Free Housing Ordinances

The “Crime Free” Housing initiative originated in Tempe, Arizona, and traveled to other states including Illinois. Crime Free Housing ordinances continue to grow in popularity among local officials in Illinois. The idea behind these proposals is to regulate landlords and rental housing in regard to crime prevention on the property.  Requirements such as landlord licensure and building registration are being imposed by several home rule municipalities in Illinois, but non home-rule units cannot impose such requirements. IAR local Government Affairs Directors have objected to many features of these proposals, including the attempts to regulate those who already have a real estate license. The most common provisions of these proposals include:

  • Licensure of Landlord or Property Owner
  • Registration Fee for Rental Property
  • Crime Free Housing Seminar hosted by Local Police Department
  • Inspections and Occupancy Certificates
  • Eviction Requirements

Licensure Requirements

Many communities require property owners or managers to obtain a license from the municipality before they are allowed to rent property within the community. Oftentimes, the property owner or manager is required to live “locally,” or else they may be required to name a “local agent” to serve as the responsible party of the property in case of an emergency or a reported crime on the property.

Depending on how the ordinance is drafted, there may be a conflict with the Illinois Real Estate License Law.  A municipality cannot prevent a real estate licensee from performing “licensed activities” as spelled out in the state license law.  But some towns have attempted to do just that with their own license ordinance.  If you have any questions about this type of provision in a local ordinance, contact your local Government Affairs Director.

Property Registration Fees

Registration fees are most often set at around $50.00 per unit, per year in order to fund the local Crime Fee Housing program and other operations related to regulation of rental units. This can become quite costly for large companies who manage large numbers or units.

Crime Fee Housing Seminar

Property Managers or owners are also required to complete a Crime Fee Housing seminar, hosted by the local police department prior to renting property. These seminars provide property managers with tips on tenant screening and other ways in which crime can be decreased on their properties. The Crime Free Housing Seminar is typically a 6 to 8 hour class.

Inspections and Occupancy Permits

Exterior and interior inspections of property may also be required. Local building officials often suggest exterior changes that could help to decrease crime on property including trimming bushes or adding exterior lighting.  Interior inspections may be required to determine habitability of the unit. Once a unit has passed inspection, Occupancy permits may also be required.  Most of these property maintenance requirements have existed in several municipalities in Illinois long before the more recent emphasis on crime prevention.

Evictions

Several municipalities require the use of a “crime-free” addendum to leases.  If one of the tenants commits a crime on the property, the lease is voided and the tenant may be evicted.

3 thoughts on “Crime Free Housing Ordinances

  1. While these programs are valuable to communities, they need to be voluntary for a lanldord to participate in. An increasing number of cities across the nation are deciding to regulate the rental housing industry. They are disguising these programs as “Crime Free” and trying to shift a societal issue onto the rental property owner. In a recent negotiatation with a city, their idea was for the landlord to investigate “gang activity” on their property. When I informed them rental housing owners did not have the proper training to be able to do this… they wanted to know why I wouldn’t want to take of the problems on my properties.

    Also, the only tools lanldords have available to deal with crime on their property is eviction. Not only is this costly but also takes time. I would suggest that if lanldords are expected to deal with criminal activity on their properties then state’s should provide landlords the tools needed such as a “no contest” eviction in regards to crime.

    Sincerely,
    Julie

  2. Some cities and police departments go too far with these ordinances. I have been involved in several cases where the police officer in charge of the “Crime Free” program tells a landlord they must evict a tenant because of “suspected” criminal activity. If the landlord balks at evicting a tenant the city threatens to revoke the landlord’s business license. No landlord wants to fight with city hall. The most egregious case was when a family who had been renting a single family home for 10 years were forced to move because the police suspected one family member (an adult child home for summer from college) used marijuana.

  3. Not only are the police ordering landlords to evict but they are doing it on no grounds. The last time I looked our constitution says you are innocent until proven guilty and entitled to a fair trial. These over zealous officers are over stepping landlords going directly to tenants and telling them they have to get out. Since when has the landlord become reponsible for the actions or suspected actions whent hey are not in the rental unit?? I think we need to take a hard look at this “Crime Free” law as I would venture to say it borders on being unconstitutional and discrimenatory! Perhaps the ACLU would like to take a look at what’s going on!

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