On the surface, the idea of Crime-Free Housing seems like a spectacular idea, I mean who could possibly be against such a wholesome concept. It was designed as a partnership between property owners and managers, residents, and law enforcement to reduce crime and nuisance activity. What could possibly go wrong? For those of you who read Watchdog’s last posting, a lot can go wrong, for landlords, residents, and municipalities.
Let me share with you my personal tale of woe. About a year ago, I had the opportunity to purchase a condominium (rental property) in a suburb of Chicago. It was one of the so-called ‘Parks’, and it wasn’t Park Ridge, Park Forest, or Oak Park. I won’t mention the name of the town, at the risk of irritating town officials, because I am still trying to get off their bureaucratic bicycle, and they have me peddling as fast as I can go.
We remodeled the condo, so it’s as good a new. The tenants are a young family of four, and take care of it was though they owned it. Because I was a new owner in town, I received a letter from the city stating I was in violation of the town’s Crime-Free Ordinance, which was news to me. I called to see what I needed to do, and the person said, that technically I was an unlicensed landlord and that my tenant would need to vacate the property, unless I became licensed immediately.
To get licensed I needed to do three things: 1) participate in a mandatory 8 hour class, 2) pay $100 for the license, and 3) pass a property inspection. OK, so the town works under the ‘Golden Rule’ (he who has the gold makes the rules).
I signed up for the Saturday 8-hour class, paid my $100 for the license, and scheduled the property inspection. So far so good. I did some research ahead of time about Crime-Free Housing Ordinances and that’s when I learned they can cause as many problems as solutions.
I attended the training, which was very well done, and they addressed all questions including those regarding the downside of Crime-Free housing. Again, so far so good.
Then it was time for the property inspection and this is when the bureaucratic bicycle appeared. The inspection form had a list of 100 possible infractions. The good news is that I was OK on 99, but they nailed me on one; a bedroom had a small patch of ceiling paint that had pealed, about 1/8 inch by 2 inches, which prevented me from getting licensed until it was repaired. OK, fair enough, I’ll have it repaired, which it was. Another inspection was scheduled.
At the next inspection, the inspector wasn’t satisfied because the paint didn’t blend in perfectly, and suggested that the entire ceiling (drywall) be replaced. Additionally, I was charged $150 for the two additional inspections, the second and third ($75 each). The ceiling is now perfect, and the third inspection should be a charm.
The good news is that I will finally get licensed and the tenant can stay. The not-so-good news is that the Crime-Free Housing Ordinance requires an inspection every two years, and to re-apply for the license every four years.
Now whether or not rental housing in the ‘Park’ town is truly crime-free, one can only guess, but two things are for sure, 1) the ordinance is a money maker for the city, and 2) every rental unit has perfectly painted ceilings.