In November, the Village of Oak Park introduced an ordinance entitled “Crime Free Housing Ordinance.”
The stated purpose is to help prevent criminal activities in rental housing. The Illinois Association of REALTORS® has faced this kind of proposal several times in recent years. IAR has worked with municipalities to ensure that the new requirements are not a de facto form of punishment of landlords who did not participate in the crime and who could not reasonably be expected to prevent the crime.
The Oak Park proposal establishes a process for the Village to identify “criminal nuisance properties.” REALTORS® recommended the inclusion of an “affirmative defense” for a property owner who could not prevent the criminal behavior of those residing in or visiting the property. We recommended that this provision for an “innocent owner” be applied to Village administrative hearings as well as a case in Court (brought by the Village).
We also recommended other language changes in the proposal to ensure that any owner who works with the Police on a crime prevention measure (e.g. enhanced security on the property, better lighting, etc.) would not be found in violation of the Ordinance. The Village Board concurred with the recommendations we made and on Dec. 9, the revised ordinance passed.
The ordinance also calls for “crime-free” content (i.e. steps to help prevent crime in rental buildings) to be included in the Village’s annual seminar for the Village’s residential landlords. In addition, landlords are required to use a “crime-free” lease addendum with all leases; this would make criminal activity on the property a lease violation and cause for eviction.