LEGISLATION

WAUKEGAN INSPECTION ORDINANCE

Note: This log is organized by date, newest to oldest.

 

April 4, 2005 - Waukegan amends (05-O-39) the licensing and inspection ordinance to require annual inspections of single-family rental homes.

 

July 7, 2003 - Waukegan city council adopts the revised licensing and inspection ordinance, over the objections of two aldermen.

 

"I'm so disappointed with the way apartment owners are carrying themselves on this," said ald. Sam Cunningham.  Cunningham added that he will monitor the revised program for effectiveness.

 

June 27, 2003 - LCAOA receives the "final" draft markup of the revised ordinance.  Key items:

 

  •     Owner-occupied 2-unit properties are still exempt from inspection.
  •     Inspections will be conducted every three years, or 1/3 annually if owner prefers.
  •     License fees are:
    •         $10.00 for 1-2 units
    •         $10.00 per unit for 3-10 units
    •         $100.00 per building if over 10 units
    •         $200.00 for total complex of multi-family buildings (same owner)
  •     Inspection fees are $10.00 per unit.
  •     The inspection checklist is now contained within the ordinance
  •     Vacant units are not required to be reinspected before renting
  •     Before seeking an administrative search warrant, the city will present the matter for review by a newly-created task force.  "The Task Force's objective will be to establish guidelines and make recommendations to the City concerning disputes relating to the rental property inspection process."

 

To download the draft ordinance in Adobe pdf format (583k), click here.

 

According to LCAOA's legal counsel, constitutional concerns have not been eliminated with this draft.  One of the most important issues will be whether the city continues to successfully seek administrative search warrants without providing the necessary probable cause defined in the U.S. Constitution and interpreted by several federal courts.

 

The Waukegan city council is expected to approve this ordinance at the July 7, 2003 regular meeting.

 

June 16, 2003 - Waukegan ordinance revisions near completion.

 

According to an article in the News Sun, Alderman Patrick Needham introduced a revised licensing and inspection ordinance to the City Council and scheduled a vote for the July council meeting.

 

April 8, 2003 - Waukegan mayor forms committee to review inspections

 

Waukegan mayor Richard Hyde has formed a committee to review the current inspection ordinance and recommend changes to improve the process.

 

The committee includes aldermen Patrick Needham and Tony Figureroa, landlords and LCAOA members Phil Lorenc and Fred Gust, Fair Housing director Pat Konicki and several Waukegan tenants. More committee members may be named at a later date.

 

Enforcement of the inspection ordinance was suspended before February's primary elections, and has not been reactivated as of this date. Mayor Hyde has promised that inspections will not resume until the inspection process is reviewed and amended.

 

Meanwhile, LCAOA, in cooperation with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), has prepared a federal lawsuit that attacks several aspects of the inspection ordinance as unconstitutional. As a courtesy, Waukegan officials have been given one final chance to repeal the existing ordinance -- or the lawsuit will be filed.

 

The Illinois Association of Realtors is also participating in the lawsuit.

 

March 28, 2003 - LCAOA attorneys mail a final notice to Waukegan attorneys.  Once again, the letter outlines the constitutional violations entailed in the inspection ordinance, and asks that the ordinance be repealed by May 5, 2003.  If the city does not respond favorably, LCAOA is prepared to file suit in Federal court.

 

March 10, 2003 - Waukegan begins mailing notices to landlords informing them that "as of March 7, 2003 the rental license inspection program will cease until further notice.  Mayor Hyde has appointed a committee to refine the methods of inspections, which may result in changes to the program."

 

March 8, 2003 - Waukegan schedules a meeting for clergy members for Monday, March 10.  The purpose of the meeting is to explain the inspection ordinance from the city's perspective (see In the News).

 

March 7, 2003 - An LCAOA member reports that an upcoming inspection scheduled for next week has been postponed indefinitely.  Waukegan building department continues to state publicly that any inspections scheduled for March have not been suspended.

 

February 18, 2003 - The Waukegan City Council amends the inspection ordinance to exempt new construction for the first year of service.  The rationale is that new construction is already being inspected before occupancy permits are issued, so licensing inspections are redundant.

 

The ordinance is also amended to recognize properties that pass the first inspection.  Under the new rules, properties that pass the first inspection will be inspected every-other year rather than every year.

 

During comment time, Alderman Patrick Needham (7th) mentions that he has heard from several landlords, and now feels that the inspection ordinance should be revisited with additional input from landlords and tenants.

 

Needham's comments draw the ire of Alderman Lawrence V. TenPas (6th) and Sam Cunningham (1st); both rant about absentee landlords who feast off their properties.  Cunningham blames landlords for not policing each other and accuses them of not caring about life/safety issues.  Several aldermen decry "misinformation" and "lies" put out by area landlords to scare tenants.

 

In fact, in our first meeting with the City on February 28, 2002, task force members suggested that the city expand the fire department's existing life/safety inspection program to all rental housing.  Currently, the fire department only inspects larger apartment buildings.  At that time, our suggestion was rejected.  The city insisted that inspections include zoning and maintenance issues.

 

The city is now pointing to life/safety problems discovered during the licensing inspections, and accusing area landlords of fighting life/safety inspections.  We are not fighting life/safety inspections; this was reaffirmed on February 6, 2003 (see post for that day).

 

Mayor Hyde announces that administrative warrants will be served on [805 Baldwin] tomorrow, and then "that's going to be it until we take another look at this ordinance."

 

February 14, 2003 - Mayor Hyde confirms that the inspections have been stopped as of Tuesday.  No more inspections until the process is revisited.  Hyde implies that inspectors have found many violations at some buildings; some inspection results are "unbelievable."

 

Property owners who have already received notice of inspections begin receiving phone calls from city code enforcers.  The scheduled inspections have been "postponed" due to "scheduling problems."

 

February 11, 2003 - Mayor suspends inspections

 

At a Tuesday evening Candidates Forum, Mayor Dick Hyde announces the temporary suspension of rental inspections.  He indicates that there are some problems with the process that need to be addressed before inspections resume.

 

February 11, 2003 - A number of LCAOA members agree to support Susan J. Bailey's aldermanic candidacy for Waukegan's second ward, in opposition to incumbent John Balen.  Volunteers will install campaign signs, telephone registered voters, and make campaign contributions.  Both are candidates for the Democratic party nomination, so the winner in the February 25 primaries will run uncontested in the April 1 general election.

 

Several LCAOA members agree to focus on Waukegan's sixth ward in an effort to unseat incumbent Lawrence V. TenPas.  Activities will include voter registration drives, and providing other types of support to challenger Keith E. Turner.

 

LCAOA confirms that all plaintiffs have been identified, and that a federal lawsuit is planned.

 

February 7-8, 2003 - LCAOA participates in the First Hispanic Business Expo of Lake County, IL, sponsored by Vision News.  Many Waukegan political candidates stop by the LCAOA booth and express their opposition to the current inspection ordinance.

 

February 6, 2003 - A committee meets to develop a reasonable position for the Association to take relative to an inspection ordinance.  In other words, what inspection program would be acceptable to us?

 

A consensus is reached.  We believe that the existing fire department inspection procedures should be expanded to include all rental housing in Waukegan.  These inspections are geared toward life, safety and fire-prevention, and are limited to common areas and utility areas of rental buildings.  No dwelling units are searched.

 

In other words, the Waukegan Fire Department should develop a uniform inspection procedure to perform life/safety/fire-prevention inspections of the basements and common areas of all rental housing.  LCAOA will welcome such a program, and it may save lives.

 

While we do not agree with the city's landlord licensing requirements, LCAOA acknowledges that this is probably not going to go away.  The inspection fees, however, are unacceptable and must be eliminated.

 

January 26, 2003 - The Illinois Rental Property Owners Association (IRPOA) announces plans to form a taskforce to develop a bill that would prohibit municipalities from licensing landlords and rental properties.

 

Cities such as Waukegan derive their authority for blanket apartment inspections from their power to license and regulate apartment owners as businesses.  Presumably, if the State of Illinois prohibited licensing, the cities would have no authority to conduct the inspections.

 

January 24, 2003 - A committee of Waukegan landlords begins contacting individual political candidates to educate them on the problems with the inspection ordinance, and elicit their position favoring or opposing.  The resulting information is communicated to LCAOA membership.

 

January 22, 2003 - The City holds a news conference conducted by building commissioner Charles Perkey along with attorney Anne Linn.  Mr. Perkey reported that approximately 100 units had been inspected since beginning the program on January 6, 2003.

 

Mr. Perkey:  "Actually, it's gone very well.  There have been minor problems with some landlords where we've had to get the administrative search warrants.

 

"The vast majority of the inspections have gone extremely well, and it seems that from the feedback that we're getting from our inspectors that the majority of the landlords are not opposed to the program once they see what we're doing.

 

"We have a five page checklist that covers all areas of the building; the exterior, the interior common areas, and then the interior individual units.  If it's a multi-unit building, more than three units, we may have the fire department there with us because their responsibility is to inspect the common areas of these properties, when they have the manpower available to helps us and assist in those areas.

 

"The inspector will do the common areas, the exterior, and with the property owner or an agent on site they then go into the individual units to perform the inspections."

 

What are they looking for?

 

"Basically, they're looking to make sure the building's habitable, that there's no vermin, rodents, bugs, that there's no peeling paint in great quantities on the walls, that the electrical outlets are not overloaded, that they're not hanging out of the wall and that the faucets aren't leaking; that they aren't dripping, that things are basically in a good state of repair so it's a livable unit."

 

Overcrowding

 

"Part of the whole program as far as making sure that the number of people that live in a unit meet the requirements of the property maintenance code and the building code.

 

"If we find evidence of overcrowding as far as illegal units or extra beds or whatever, they basically will check that [on the checklist form] and will send it to the normal inspector for that area, who will go back on a density inspection.

 

"But on the initial inspection we have determined that we're not going to take the time to go through that at that particular point in time.  There's several issues that we just check and we will send someone else back to work on it later.  But, yes, it is an issue that we are looking for."

 

What if violations are noted?

 

"We aren't issuing citations at this time.  There have been several units that had failed the inspection.  The noncompliance letters have not been sent yet due to a computer glitch.

 

"In the majority of the cases it's working.  We have found several problems in certain areas that we're working with those people to address those problems.

 

"The noncompliance letter will be sent certified [mail].  [The landlord has] "thirty days to address the problems from the time they receive the letter."

 

What if a tenant refuses to submit to voluntary inspection?

 

"There are no consequences if they don't allow us in.  What we have been able to do is get administrative search warrants through the courts, then go back.  Our interpretation of the program as long as it's unilaterally enforced throughout the city, on every piece of property in the city, the courts will give us a warrant to go in and complete the inspection.  At the time we have to get an administrative warrant to go in and complete the inspection, we do have to take a police officer with us because he is a member of the court."

 

So, what are you using for probable cause to get the search warrant?

 

Anne Linn: "Under the case law, if a city is engaging in a systematic program of inspection, which we are, every rental unit will be inspected under this program, and if the criteria for the inspection set out clearly as being certain codes which in our ordinance it is the property maintenance codes, life safety codes that are set out in our ordinance, and if the way that the units are selected for inspection is objective (in other words they're all being selected it's just a matter of by month basis and area basis) there's no other illegal criteria used to select each unit, then the standard for issuing an administrative warrant is met.

 

"And that's under several cases starting with the 1967 Camera vs. United States and more recently Black vs. The Village of Park Forest.  That's the kind of program that we're engaging in; so it's not the same standard as if we were going to get an administrative warrant just on an individual property because we had reason to believe violations existed on that property."

 

So you're using the same reason for all the search warrants?

 

"Exactly, yes.  Because that is what we're doing.  We're doing a program of inspections, we're picking the properties randomly, and all the properties will be inspected, and the basis for the inspections are set out in our ordinance.  The inspectors are not using just their own personal opinion about a unit or whatever.  So under the standards that we're using, it's a very tight, restrictive standard the warrants can be issued for that purpose.  Once a warrant is issued, then we are required to take a police officer with us, because at that point then, the inspection has been ordered by a court, and if a refusal is given after that a police officer would need to come."

 

"This program that we're running is a licensing program for rental properties.  The landlords and owners of the rental properties are conducting business in the city of Waukegan and they're licensed by the city of Waukegan to do that.  As a part this program, and ongoing improvement in our licensing program, we want to insure that these properties that we're licensing are satisfactory.  And that's the reason for it."

 

View the Waukegan Press Release

 

January 17, 2003 - LCAOA's full page ad hits the Waukegan News Sun (page 4) newspaper.  The ad is published in cooperation with the Fair Housing Center of Lake County.

 

The News Sun publishes a letter from Mayoral candidate Wayne Motley rebutting Mr. Setterland's letter of January 10, along with Mr. Setterland's correction/retraction.

 

Bilingual newspaper Noticias Vision News publishes an editorial and a hard-hitting story on the inspections.

 

January 16, 2003 - Waukegan News Sun publishes a letter to the editor from retired police officer Richard Slusser.  An active LCAOA member, Mr. Slusser owns rental property in Waukegan.

 

January 14, 2003 - Circuit Court Judge David Hall restores the mayoral candidacy of the Rev. C.L. Fairchild.  Republican candidate Mark Hawn withdraws from the mayoral race.  An updated list of candidates (pdf 43k) is available.  LCAOA will not be endorsing any candidates, but will attempt to identify all candidates who oppose the inspection ordinance and/or appear sympathetic to our cause.

 

LCAOA, in cooperation with the Fair Housing Center of Lake County (847-336-3247), prepares full-page display advertisements to run in Waukegan English and Spanish language newspapers over the next few days.  The purpose of the advertising is to raise awareness of the inspection ordinance, organize grass-roots resistance from the thousands of Waukegan tenants and homeowners, and increase donations to LCAOA's legal fund.

 

January 12, 2003 - The Lake County Fair Housing Center has provided a Spanish language translation of the Tenant Notice (pdf 166k).

 

January 10, 2003 - News Sun publishes a blistering letter to the editor from retired police officer Bert Setterland, about inspections conducted at Lilac Ledge, one of Waukegan's nicest apartment complexes.

 

January 9, 2003 - City inspectors, armed with warrants, begin searching rental units where tenants previously refused access.  In the first inspections, the code inspectors are accompanied by agents from the Waukegan police and fire departments.

 

January 8, 2003 - City inspectors secure Administrative Search Warrants for rental units where the tenants have refused access.  The warrants are signed by Judge Helen Rosenberg Franks of the Circuit Court of the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit: Lake County, Illinois.

 

January 7, 2003 - Some tenants refuse to voluntarily allow the city to inspect/search their rental units.  One series of inspections that is conducted results in a lengthy list of violations.

 

January 4, 2003 - LCAOA holds special meeting of Waukegan rental property owners.  Eighty people attend.  A suggested Tenant Notice is distributed.  Also provided is a list of candidates for the upcoming mayoral and aldermanic elections, and a legal fund donation form.  Some owners have inspections scheduled for January 7, and members agree to show up in force at these inspections as a sign of solidarity.

 

January 2, 2003 - Arnstein & Lehr attorney Thadford A. Felton sends letter to Waukegan city attorney Anne Conzelman Linn which addresses the outstanding constitutional issues with the ordinance.  The letter requests that the city delay implementation of the ordinance until these issues are resolved.

 

December 27, 2002 - LCAOA representatives conference with Robert D. Butters, and decide to draft a letter to tenants, outlining the city's plan to conduct the inspections, and providing a form to allow the tenant to consent or decline voluntary inspections.

 

December 21, 2002 - Waukegan rental property owners begin receiving inspection notices.  LCAOA board members vote to call special meeting.

 

December 18, 2002 - Arnstein & Lehr attorney Thadford A. Felton prepares memorandum of Issues to be Addressed Regarding the Waukegan Ordinance.

 

December 17, 2002 - Mr. Butters receives the rules and regulations of the City of Waukegan concerning the residential rental licensing & inspection program.

 

December 10, 2002 - The Waukegan News Sun publishes a letter to the editor, written by Mark E. Pleasant, blasting citizens who wish to exercise their constitutional protections.  Apparently, Mr. Pleasant, an investigator for the Lake County Sheriff, believes the U.S. Constitution doesn't apply to anybody but him.  The letter is a reaction to the News Sun's 12/7 article.

 

Robert D. Butters addresses the general meeting of the Lake County Apartment Owners Association in Gurnee, Illinois.  Mr. Butters stresses the point that landlords to not have legal authority to refuse or allow warrantless inspections on their tenants' behalf.  Only the tenant has this right.  Landlords do have the right to allow or refuse warrantless inspections of vacant units and common areas.  LCAOA renews fundraising efforts in preparation for anticipated litigation.

 

December 7, 2002 - The Waukegan News Sun publishes a front page story on the city's request to share information on the home addresses of students enrolled in the city.  The article also describes LCAOA's efforts to fight the inspection ordinance, and quotes member Dennis Eash.

 

December 4, 2002 - Robert D. Butters, with two LCAOA members, meets with Waukegan Corporation Counsel Bob Massini, Building Commissioner Chuck Perkey, and attorney Anne Conzelman Linn to discuss the constitutional issues with the ordinance.

 

The City assures LCAOA that any constitutional issues will be addressed and resolved when the implementing rules and regulations are issued.  The city agrees to forward the regulations to Mr. Butters when completed.

 

November, 2002 - Waukegan sends letter to owners of rental property announcing plans to begin "an annual inspection program of all rental units in the city," effective in January of 2002.  "The City of Waukegan has prepared a schedule for the annual inspections.  The schedule is based on a random selection of properties to be inspected each month.  The month that your property is originally scheduled for an inspection will continue to be the month your property will be inspected in subsequent years.  It will also be the month that your annual rental license is renewed."

 

October 17, 2002 - Robert D. Butters sends letter to Waukegan Mayor Dick Hyde requesting a meeting with the mayor or his representatives to discuss the constitutionality of the ordinance, and requests the mayor's response by November 1, 2002.

 

September 30, 2002 - LCAOA representatives meet with Robert D. Butters, attorney at Arnstein & Lehr (Chicago) to discuss the ordinance and LCAOA's legal options.  Mr. Butters had been retained by LCAOA to review the ordinance and evaluate possible legal options.

 

Mr. Butters explicitly stated that the Waukegan ordinance is illegal, in that it conditions the landlord's business license on his/her consent to the inspection program.  Under the United States Constitution, inspections may be voluntarily allowed by the owner/occupant; otherwise an administrative warrant is required.  To force the landlord to involuntarily accept these inspections as a condition of licensing, the city denies the landlord a constitutional right.  Several Illinois appellate decisions support our position.

 

LCAOA's legal representatives will contact Waukegan officials to discuss the constitutional issues and propose further changes to the ordinance.

 

September 12, 2002 - Arnstein & Lehr furnishes LCAOA with their analysis of the ordinance.  Included in the analysis, Arnstein provides a list of four principles used by courts to evaluate the constitutionality of ordinances regarding searches of private residences:

 

    An administrative search of any private residence owned by one person and rented to another must include a warrant procedure.

    Probable cause to issue a warrant to inspect must exist if reasonable legislative or administrative standards for conducting an areas inspection are satisfied with respect to a particular dwelling, but that probable cause will not necessarily depend on specific knowledge of the condition of the particular dwelling.

    Consent to search can substitute for a warrant to search a rental property.

    Ownership of rental property does not imply consent to search the rental property.

 

In Makula v. Village of Schiller Park, No. 95C2400, 1998 WL 246043 (N.D. Ill. 1998), Judge Coar struck down the portion of the ordinance that required an owner to agree to the administrative search as a prerequisite to the issuance or renewal of the landlord's business license.

 

In Black v. Village of Park Forest, 20 F.Supp. 2d 1218 (N.D. Ill. 1998), the court agreed with the tenants' argument that because the ordinance did not contain an explicit requirement that Park Forest obtain the consent of the tenant rather than the owner of the rental property for the inspection, that the ordinance may be applied in an unconstitutional manner.  The court also found that administrative searches must be governed by "reasonable legislative and administrative standards" which meant that at a minimum authorizing ordinances must contain a clear indication of the evils sought to be prevented by the inspection program and some indication of the appropriate parameters of the searches.

 

July 3, 2002 - Arnstein & Lehr files a Freedom of Information Act Request requesting City records dealing with the enactment of the ordinance.

 

June 17, 2002 - LCAOA engages Chicago law firm Arnstein & Lehr to represent the Association in evaluation of a potential challenge to the Waukegan ordinance.

 

May 6, 2002 - New Ordinance Enacted.  In a 7 to 1 vote the Waukegan City Council enacts a modified version of the landlord licensing ordinance that requires annual inspections of rental units.  Alderman Frank Harris, Jr. was the dissenting vote.

 

Click here for the full text of the ordinance.

 

Several aldermen had taken offense to comments made by one member in an ill-timed letter to the editor of the News Sun newspaper.  In the letter, the member took the city's elected officials to task for misplacing their priorities by worrying about Waukegan's image but failing to focus on the root cause of Waukegan's problems; he felt that Waukegan should be more focused on crime.  The aldermen read these comments as a criticism of Waukegan citizens and the police department, but they were intended to chide the elected officials for not providing more support to their police department.

 

The Waukegan aldermen demonstrated their inability to accept criticism - constructive or otherwise - by enacting this ordinance; not on its merits but in order to teach their critic and other landlords a lesson.

 

Our next step will be to seek legal counsel who will review the ordinance for us, and help us determine whether/how to pursue the matter through the courts.

 

April 15, 2002 - At the City Council Meeting, Alderman Larry TenPas offered a motion to end the moratorium on inspections under Ordinance 01-O-127.  Several aldermen questioned the alderman's motion, and after discussion with the city attorney, Mr. TenPas withdrew the motion.

 

Mr. TenPas then offered a motion to implement a new ordinance, which was the draft we had read and discussed on April 8 (presumably with some revisions).  The motion was immediately seconded.  During the discussion period, Alderman Sam Harris, Jr. questioned the research behind the ordinance, and asked if other Illinois cities similar to Waukegan in size had been surveyed.  Building Inspector Charles Perkey reported that he had discussed the matter with Elgin personnel.

 

Mr. Harris then requested that Mr. Perkey go back and do more research.  Then, Alderman John Rickerd mentioned that he had received an overnight letter from the "landlords association," presenting the idea of inviting Karin Long from Milwaukee to meet with us and discuss alternatives to inspections and ideas for how the city and the landlords can work with each other instead of against each other.

 

Mr. Rickerd went on to say that, while he agreed that Waukegan had the authority to impose inspections on rental property, the city should look at all the angles first.  "We will have to live with this ordinance for a long time," he said.  Then Alderman Rickerd exercised his power to table the ordinance until the next council meeting.

 

Several aldermen expressed interest in attending the meeting with Ms. Long, and Mayor Hyde promised to notify them as soon as the meeting had been scheduled; presumably within the next two weeks.  The mayor also mentioned that he had talked to Ms. Long on the phone, and she had stated that the proposed ordinance would be a violation of the U.S. Constitution, by forcing inspections on dwellings without the occupant's permission.  This opinion contrasted with that of city attorney Ann Linn, who wrote in a letter (read aloud by Alderman TenPas) that Waukegan was clearly within their legal right and there was no constitutional question whatsoever.

 

April 12, 2002 - Mayor agrees to table inspection ordinance.  In meetings with several LCAOA members on April 10 and April 12, Mayor Richard Hyde agreed to refer the inspection ordinance to committee if it is presented for a vote at the next council meeting on April 15.  The mayor agreed to delay the ordinance vote after LCAOA members suggested that the parties explore alternatives to inspections by seeking ways to partner with the city instead of pursuing an adversarial relationship.  By referring the ordinance to committee, it will not be voted at this time.

 

LCAOA has been in touch with Karin A. Long, head of Milwaukee's landlord training program, who has offered to meet with the parties to present her ideas on how the city and landlords can develop a working partnership to improve the community.  Ms. Long reports that Milwaukee has been very successful using such an approach, and as a result Milwaukee officials have not seen the need for mandatory housing inspections.

 

Mayor Hyde agreed to invite Ms. Long to attend a meeting with Waukegan landlords and city officials where she can offer her views and suggestions.  The meeting date has not yet been determined.

 

LCAOA maintains that Waukegan has sufficient legislation already on the books to enforce compliance with building codes.  Instead of imposing costly and disruptive inspections on investors and tenants, LCAOA supports development of a "Partnership" with the city to work together to improve housing conditions.

 

April 8, 2002 - Around fifteen landlords meet with Alderman Larry TenPas, Building Commissioner Charles Perkey, and City Attorney Ann Linn, in the City Hall Council Chambers.  Ann Linn repeats the city's position that being a landlord is a "privilege."  In order to enjoy that privilege in Waukegan, the landlord's rental property must be licensed.  Yes, tenants have the right to refuse the inspection, whereupon the city would decide whether to seek a search warrant.  The city would not seek a warrant unless they believe they have probable cause, then it would be up to the judge to decide whether there is sufficient cause.

 

It turns out that the tenant's right to refuse the inspection is irrelevant -- because, if any tenant refuses inspection, the city will not issue the license and will shut down the building.  We communicate our position that the city's stance will force a lot of our buildings to be shut down, and we will litigate the issue in court.  The city's attitude is: If you don't like it, take us to court.

 

We did manage to review the ordinance at the meeting, and discuss several sections that are in question; and the city agrees to review and clarify some parts.  The only justification provided for requiring inspections before a vacant unit can be re-rented is that it's "for our own good."

 

We have one more chance to defeat the inspection ordinance.  Alderman TenPas needs five votes in City Council to pass the bill, out of a total of eight votes.  If LCAOA can persuade four aldermen to vote against the ordinance, it will not pass.

 

LCAOA has stressed our willingness to work with the city to improve housing conditions in Waukegan, but we are unwilling to accept the inspection ordinance as the solution.  We will continue to search for alternatives and present them to city officials; but an inspection ordinance is not the way to secure our cooperation.

 

We encourage all Waukegan investors to stay in touch with their aldermen.  Apparently, Alderman TenPas and Alderman Balen are a lost cause, so our focus should go to the remaining six:  Aldermen Cunningham, Rickerd, Figueroa, Harris and Needham, and Mayor Hyde.

 

If you haven't contributed to LCAOA's Legal Fund, now is the time.

 

April 4, 2002 - Building Commissioner Charles Perkey has scheduled a meeting with area landlords for Monday, April 8, 2002 at 6:30 pm @ City Hall to review and discuss the proposed (revised) ordinance.  He provides a draft of the revised ordinance.  Some of the changes are (the section is shown before the change):

 

14-4b    Multi-building apartment complexes would pay $200 to license the entire complex, rather than $100 per building.

 

            The unit where the owner-occupant resides would be exempt from the license fee.  Presumably, it would also be exempt from inspection.

 

14-4d (i-v)    Issuance of license is conditioned on payment of inspection fees at time of filing.  Inspection fees are $25 per unit, and the city will conduct the inspections.  Reinspections will cost $15 under some circumstances.

 

14-4d (iii)    The license inspection will determine whether the property complies with the following codes:

 

    building

    zoning

    property maintenance

    life-safety

 

14-4d (vi)    Vacant units must be reinspected before they can be reoccupied.  No charge for these inspections.

 

There seems to be a contradiction in the next two sections:

 

14-5    Compliant properties could waive the inspection requirements for one year.

 

14-6b    Properties passing inspection for 5 years would be inspected on a 2-year basis.  This schedule would remain in effect provided the property remained more than 90% compliant with all applicable city codes.

 

(There is no explanation as to how to determine 90% compliance.)

 

14-12g-h    When a license is revoked, a notice would be posted on the building notifying tenants they have 60 days to vacate.  "If you fail to vacate this building you will be in violation of the ordinances of the City of Waukegan, and could also be subject to fines not to exceed $750.00 per day of violation."

 

14-13    If an owner or occupant refuses to allow the inspection, the city may apply to the Circuit Court for a search warrant or other appropriate court order.

 

March 25, 2002 - LCAOA will develop a strategy to educate Waukegan tenants of their legal rights with respect to property inspections.  Tenants are not required to consent to an inspection of their dwelling.  In fact, landlords should get written consent before allowing inspection of any tenant's abode.  Without the occupant's consent, government officials may not enter the premises without a search warrant, which may not be issued without probable cause.  Courts have ruled that search warrants issued without probable cause are invalid.  This requirement does not apply to an apartment building's common areas, such as hallways and laundry rooms; the landlord would likely be required to allow inspection of the common areas.  Also, there is some question about a vacant rental unit:  can the landlord deny access to inspectors since it is not currently anybody's "dwelling"?

 

March 22, 2002 - LCAOA has learned that Waukegan is taking steps to enforce two existing ordinances:  One ordinance requires that all real estate advertising include the property's zoning classification on the sign and in any printed advertisement.  The other ordinance requires trash dumpsters to be enclosed.  The dumpster ordinance was revised at the March 18 council meeting to include language requiring the dumpster to be placed on a hard surface.  It is unclear whether that surface must be concrete, or exactly what types of surface will be acceptable.  The city is also viewing property "for sale" listings on the Internet, and acting on language they feel is inappropriate, such as "bedrooms in basement."  Apparently, basement bedrooms are legal under certain circumstances, such as when there is 7 ft. headroom and a direct exit, but Waukegan's stated position has been "NO BEDROOMS IN THE BASEMENT."

 

March 20, 2002 - One LCAOA member met with Chuck Perkey of Waukegan Building Department.  Mr. Perkey says the ordinance has been modified, and is ready to be sent to Alderman Larry TenPas (legislative) for review.  The ordinance is revised to eliminate the requirement for professional home inspectors, but now requires city-conducted inspections at owner expense.  We will continue to communicate to the City of Waukegan that there is an alternative to inspections:  working together with LCAOA to educate landlords and improve Waukegan properties.  Let's be allies - not adversaries!

 

March 15, 2002 - Three LCAOA members meet with the offending landlord, Javier C_. Mr. C_ has already been fined $200 in Housing Court. He is invited to LCAOA meetings, encouraged to participate in the landlord training program, and attend investor support group meetings (twice-around). Mr. C_ is invited to contact LCAOA members with any questions he might have in the future.

 

Potential suitable housing for the family has been identified, and appointment set for Monday, March 18 to view the rental unit. A second, backup rental property has been identified. The family will need to complete applications and pass the landlord's normal screening process.

 

March 10, 2002 - Two LCAOA members meet with Alderman Cunningham and the troubled parents, Jimmy and April P_. LCAOA offers to search for suitable rental housing for the family and also reach out to the offending landlord to offer assistance. LCAOA suggests that Waukegan Housing Court sentence offending landlords to the police-sponsored landlord training program. Alderman Cunningham is not aware of the landlord training program, but welcomes the suggestion.

 

March 4, 2002 - At the city council meeting, First Ward Alderman Sam Cunningham approaches one LCAOA member with a problem. The city received a letter from a family who had moved into a rental unit, only to find that the basement flooded, the roof leaked, and the landlord was unresponsive. The tenants called Code Enforcement officials, who inspected the property. The Code officials discovered that the finished basement was being used for sleeping quarters for this family (two adults and six children), and ordered the family to move out of the building. Alderman Cunningham wants LCAOA's response. The LCAOA members reply that they do not support landlords who will not maintain or repair their properties, and that the city should take any punitive action against the landlord that they feel is necessary. After the council meeting, one LCAOA member learns that Alderman Cunningham plans to invite the family to the next council meeting, and use them as an example of problem landlords. The family is also in need of new rental housing.

 

February 28, 2002 - Task force members, joined by representatives from Lake County Realtors® and Fair Housing, as well as a landlord-attorney, meet with city officials. City officials agree to consider the license fees (how they are calculated), the requirement for professional home inspectors, and the language requiring "no code violations or other areas of concern or failure." Officials are adamant that an inspection program will be implemented, covering life, safety and maintenance issues. The city would consider utilizing city employees to conduct the inspections (at owner expense). They will not eliminate the licensing requirement or reduce the license fees. Building Commissioner Charles Perkey admits that "no code violations" is an impossible standard. Alderman Larry TenPas (legislative committee) admits that most of the problems that the city needs to address are in 1 to 4 unit properties instead of the larger buildings, but offers no assurance that the larger properties will be exempt from any future inspection requirements.

 

February 22, 2002 - The Waukegan News Sun runs a front page headline: "Council suspends apartment ordinance," the story mentions the Lake County Apartment Owners Association and quotes aldermen who say the landlords have been professional in lodging complaints, and "weren't threatening at all" in questioning the ordinance.

 

February 19, 2002 - At the Waukegan City Council meeting, one LCAOA member commends the Waukegan Police Department for their landlord training program and announces the next class is to be held on Saturday, February 23. During Alderman time, Alderman John Rickerd states that he has heard from numerous landlords who have expressed their opposition to the inspection ordinance, and that he was told that the local apartment association has created a "litigation fund," believing the ordinance to be unconstitutional. At this point, Alderman Frank Harris, Jr. presents a motion to declare a moratorium on the inspections until the Council can revisit the ordinance and meet with area landlords. The motion passes unanimously after some discussion. Mayor Hyde appoints the City Clerk to arrange a meeting with the landlords.

 

February 12, 2002 - The LCAOA meeting is well attended, and speakers include an attorney, a representative from the local Realtor® association, and the local Fair Housing director. The legal fund is introduced, and pledge forms distributed. A contribution of ten dollars per (Waukegan rental) unit is suggested. Several thousand dollars are collected at the meeting and over the next few days. LCAOA pledges to return any donated funds that are not used to fight the Waukegan inspection ordinance.

 

February 6, 2002 - At the Council meeting, Alderman Richard Hyde is elected mayor, replacing the late Daniel T. Drew. Mayor Hyde's first statement is a pledge to continue the programs started by the late mayor. "The programs he started will continue," Hyde says. During audience time, one LCAOA member speaks to the Council about "absentee landlords." City officials have expressed resentment against landlords who do not live within the City of Waukegan. This LCAOA member points out the double standard, in that owners of other Waukegan businesses were not denigrated if they lived elsewhere. This triggers a heated discussion within the Council, with several aldermen acknowledging that not all "absentee" landlords are bad. Others rail against slumlords, and vow to solve the slumlord problem one way or another. Mayor Hyde assures the investors that the ordinance will, in fact, be reviewed, and says there is no need for landlords to speak against the ordinance at every council meeting.

 

February 5, 2002 - The task force meets and decides to devote the regular LCAOA meeting of February 12 to the topic of the Waukegan Inspection Ordinance. Members agree to telephone all identified rental property owners to encourage their attendance. The task force also purchases a 1/2 page advertisement in the weekend News Sun real estate section. A legal fund is also planned.

 

January 30, 2002 - Mayor Daniel T. Drew dies of  of a heart attack. LCAOA issues press release offering condolences to the mayor's family and friends.  Succession issues are postponed until the next Council meeting, to be held on Wednesday, February 6, 2002. Meanwhile, city officials send letters to all licensed investors notifying them that the City is moving forward with the inspection requirements. Owners of rental property in Ward 1 and Ward 3 receive letters requiring them to submit inspection reports by August 1, 2002.

 

January 28, 2002 - LCAOA issues a press release to the Waukegan News Sun and the Chicago Tribune. The press release outlines the problems with the Inspection Ordinance and provides LCAOA's reasons for opposing it. The Association states that the City had sufficient laws on their books to deal with any code or occupancy violations, but have been lax in enforcing them in the past. The argument is made that it is unfair to the investor majority who provide quality housing to enact costly inspection requirements simply to catch the few substandard landlords. The press release is not published or mentioned by either newspaper.

 

January 19, 2002 - In advance of the meeting, 240 flyers are mailed to identified owners of Waukegan rental property. Around 50 people attend the meeting, many who had not attended the previous meeting on the 5th. Several of the larger apartment complexes are represented at the meeting. By this time, Alderman Frank Harris, Jr. has promised to speak to other council members about revisiting the ordinance, and has asked for time to accomplish this. Alderman Harris has also asked for a list of "talking points," which was provided by the task force. The decision is made to stay the course: continue phoning Waukegan Aldermen to express concern about the ordinance and the devastating affect it could have on Waukegan rental property.

 

LCAOA members continue the practice of attending Council meetings and speaking against the ordinance.

 

January 18, 2002 - Task force members meet with Waukegan's Mayor Daniel T. Drew. The mayor listens politely, is friendly and genial, and tells us he isn't interested in reviewing the ordinance. His attitude is, "The ordinance may need some tweaking, but first we're going to try it for awhile, and see how it works."

 

January 7, 2002 - Several members begin attending City Council meetings; the first such meeting is represented by around 35 investors. The co-chairmen address the Council during audience time, and begin making the argument against the ordinance. One council member, Alderman Frank Harris, Jr., says he is already having "second thoughts" about the entire ordinance.

 

January 5, 2002 - A meeting is organized by the Lake County (Illinois) Apartment Owners Association for members and other interested investors. A task force committee is formed and selects co-chairmen. Owners are encouraged to call their Waukegan Aldermen and begin attending City Council meetings. Investors are cautioned to remain polite and non-confrontational with City officials, so the officials can be given a chance to backtrack gracefully.

 

December, 2001 - The City mails license renewal notices to registered landlords, and includes an undated letter advising owners of the new ordinance. In addition to the new inspection requirements, the City has increased license fees up to 1,000%.

 

November 19, 2001 - The Waukegan, Illinois City Council enacts ordinance 01-O-127, relating to the General Business License requirements. The ordinance subjects all rental housing, except owner-occupied two-unit properties, to annual business license requirements. To procure the license, the owner must first hire a licensed home inspector (registered with the City of Waukegan) to certify that the property has "no outstanding code violations or other areas of concern or failure." Properties are required to be recertified every three years. The ordinance also authorizes any City official to "enter upon the premises" in order to "ensure compliance with all applicable codes and regulations."

 

Without the home inspector certification, owners would not be able to obtain the required business license. Penalties for operating without a business license include water service termination, fines of $500 per day, and imprisonment of up to six months.

 

1994 - The Waukegan, Illinois City Council enacts an ordinance requiring all non owner-occupied housing to be licensed by the city. The rationale for this requirement is to enable city officials to access ownership records in case of emergency.

 

11/22/07: Note that the Association's name changed from Lake County Apartment Owners Association to the Lake County Property Investors Association.

OFFICERS

President | Linda Liberatore

Vice President | Greg Getz

Secretary | Bill Powers

Treasurer | Bill Benjam

CONTACT

(224) 572-9080

PO Box 344, Gurnee IL 60031

info@lcpia.org

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