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updated: 2/21/2013 4:33 PM

Bartlett approves chronic nuisance ordinance

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Landlords will be held more responsible for the actions of their tenants in Bartlett due to a chronic nuisance ordinance passed by the village board Tuesday night.

Additionally, the ordinance states tenants could face eviction if they are the source of three complaints.

Bartlett Police Chief Kent Williams requested the ordinance, saying it would allow the department to be more proactive to eliminate problems before they negatively affect a neighborhood.

The ordinance states that if certain "serious crimes" are committed on the same property on two separate occasions within a year the chief can send a notice to the owner, tenant and property manager warning that the property is in danger of becoming a "chronic nuisance" and demanding a meeting to address the problem.

Serious crimes include prostitution, child pornography, bodily harm, theft, possession of explosives, criminal damage to property, deadly weapons, mob action, gang activity and disorderly conduct. An activity can count as a nuisance if a citation is given, an arrest is made or the violation has been documented.

If a third violation occurs in a 12-month period the chief can declare the property a "chronic nuisance," demand a meeting with the same people again and demand that the person in control submit a plan to mitigate or abate the nuisance, including possibly taking steps to evict the problem tenant and other occupants.

According to Bartlett Police Cmdr. Michael McGuigan, chronic nuisances are not really a problem right now, but the department felt it would be good to have an ordinance in place as the village continues to grow.

"It gives the property owner a chance to mitigate," he said, adding that there have been some instances in the past where an ordinance would have been helpful. "If the issue can't be solved in 12 months, then that's a problem."

McGuigan said a similar ordinance exists in Schaumburg. However, it concerns only residential rental properties, and the power to suspend or revoke a landlord's rental license is in the hands of the village manager.

Village President Michael Airdo said the ordinance, along with a foreclosed and vacant building registry ordinance that was also approved Tuesday, gives silent neighbors a voice.

"We give those folks an opportunity to be heard," he said.

The foreclosed and vacant building registry requires a contact name, address and telephone number for the authorized agent of each property so notices of code violations and court or enforcement proceedings can be received by the right person. The building owner, mortgage holder or management company must also pay an annual $200 registry fee along with a one-time $250 inspection fee.

But Ed Yohnka, director of communications and public policy for the ALCU of Illinois, said nuisance ordinances could discourage victims of domestic abuse from reporting a crime in fear of being evicted.

"There's no question that these kinds of ordinances tend to be targeted at low income communities or lower income communities," he said. "The reality is that oft times that means they tend to be targeted to people of color."

Nuisance ordinances can negatively affect innocent people, such as a family member that the person behind the crimes may be living with, Yohnka said.

The ACLU also has concerns about whether such ordinances provide due process, and if they make clear that the consequences will come about only after a conviction, and not just an arrest.

"None of these things ought to be kicked in until it's very clear that there's actually a crime that has taken place and there's an opportunity for the resident to challenge the assertion," Yohnka said.

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