Landlords, cops team up in Niles
Updated: April 8, 2013 2:03AM
On Feb. 13, a group of Niles landlords will be getting up early in the morning to meet with the police officers.
But it won’t be because they’re in trouble. Quite the opposite, actually — they’ll be there to take a class that will help them keep their properties crime-free.
The class is part of the village’s Crime-Free Housing Ordinance. Adopted in 2008, the law created a multi-pronged approach designed to address crime on Niles rental properties. Modeled after a 1992 ordinance passed in Mesa, Ariz., it strove to balance the interests of the residents, the landlords and the law enforcement. Village officials are confident that the policy has been successful.
The original Mesa ordinance was written in response to growing concerns about apartment buildings turning into hotbeds of drug trade, gang violence and other criminal activities. The approach proved to be successful enough to be copied throughout United States — including in Chicago’s northwestern suburbs.
The Niles version of the ordinance was originally proposed in 2007 by Sergeant Robert Tornabene, the Training and Public Information Officer at Niles Police Department. As originally conceived, the ordinance would have required all landlords to attend six-hour classes where they would be trained to deal with code violations, health hazards and tenant-inflicted property damage on their property. It would teach them about state and local landlord/tenant laws, show them how to screen tenants and instruct them on legal ways to evict tenants for engaging in illegal activities in their buildings.
While the final version of the ordinance didn’t require landlords to attend classes, it provided incentives. Niles landlord licenses come with fees — owners of multi-unit properties pay $20 per unit, while owners of single-family homes or attached dwelling units pay a flat fee of $100. Landlords who attended classes would get a 10 percent discount.
Tornabene recalled that the initial response to the resolution was positive.
“The landlords and most recent renters had no complaints about it,” he said. “I know that some of the renters that were repeat offenders had the problem with it because they knew the rules were going to be enforced [more systematically].”
That said, he made a point of explaining that there were incidents where classes could be mandatory.
“In the event that they have multiple incidents occurring in the property, [landlords] could be required to take classes,” said Tornabene.
According to Tornabene, the Crime Free Housing program succeeded in one important way:
“It’s reduced [the number of] our repeat offenders dramatically.”
Overall, Tornabene is happy with the way his proposal worked out.
“It has been very successful overall,” he said.