REALTORS® rein in Zion’s nuisance property ordinance

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The Illinois REALTORS® does not just advocate against transfer taxes and government pre-sale home inspections — we took the lead in reining in the city of Zion’s chronic nuisance property abatement ordinance that was, among other things, targeting sexual assault and crime victims.

Zion’s chronic nuisance property abatement ordinance authorizes city staff to contact property owners when two of 13 defined nuisance activities are found to have occurred within a 180 day period. If a property owner does not respond or a proposed plan of action is not mutually agreed upon, the property must be shut-down for a period of 30 to 180 days and all occupants, regardless of culpability, must immediately vacate the building and be subject to homelessness. Other penalties include civil fines and judicial remedy.

The Illinois REALTORS® has long maintained concerns with these types of ordinances that often penalize property owners for seeking police assistance – the police services they pay for. Echoing our concerns, the Sargent Shriver Center on National Poverty Law, writes, in their report, the Cost of Being “Crime Free”: Legal and Practical Consequences of Crime Free Rental Housing and Nuisance Property Ordinances, “these ordinances present numerous potential pitfalls that can cause serious harm to tenant households, landlords, and the community at large and expose municipalities to legal liability.”

Upon hearing of escalated and abusive enforcement, the Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS® (MORe) Lake County Government Affairs Committee took the lead in investigating, and uncovered, among other concerns, that the city was violating its own policy by enforcing the ordinance even in cases of just one alleged nuisance instance and breaking Illinois law by enforcing the ordinance against the disabled and victims of domestic and sexual violence at risk.

According to a front page Lake County News-Sun story profiling our findings, Zion Mayor Al Hill says the city is now sending far fewer violation notices, no longer enforcing against crime victims, and violation notices now must have supervisory approval.

Illinois REALTORS® and MORe will continue to monitor this ordinance for continued abuse. To read the Lake County News-Sun’s story on Zion’s ordinance, click here; to read the Lake County News-Sun’s editorial calling the ordinance “misguided,” go here.

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