The Will County Board recently passed an ordinance which allows the county to pursue code enforcement on nuisance and public safety issues in a process known as “administrative adjudication.” This would take cases out of the Will County circuit court and into an independent proceeding with an adjudication judge. The obvious benefit to this system is it would be an expedited way to deal with code violations. State law now permits this process for cities and counties. (The county power applies to the unincorporated areas.)
The ordinance, as proposed, allowed county government to become the prosecutor and the judge. Illinois REALTORS® expressed some concerns on this.
- Would the procedural rights of a property owner be trampled on when faced with a building code violation?
- A county lawyer, acting as the adjudicator, could have a lot of power.
- Could the expedited system be too fast for most property owners who receive a citation?
The REALTOR® Association wanted to weigh in on how this new system would work in Will County. IAR legal counsel and I reviewed the draft ordinance and worked to ensure that property owners had the opportunity to “cure” any potential citation before stiff penalties were imposed. The Will County Board was receptive to concerns we expressed and the changes we suggested. As a result, two major provisions were added to the proposed ordinance:
1. Under the old county ordinance, the Land Use Department could allow up to 21 days to address a code violation. Now the ordinance has a 30-day provision allowing property owners more time to address any potential citation once cited.
2. A consent provision was added that would require the county to seek consent from a property owner before any inspection of the property is done. This is a very important Constitutional right that has been upheld in various federal courts. The county may seek an administrative warrant in circuit court if consent is denied.
IAR advocacy and testimony were provided throughout the process as the county board considered the proposal. The final ordinance, with amendments, was passed in August.
Tom Joseph is the Illinois Association of REALTORS® local Government Affairs Director (GAD) representing the Kankakee-Iroquois-Ford, Mainsteet Organization and Three Rivers Associations of REALTORS®. Questions about this ordinance? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.