Batavia considers regulating rental housing

Updated 2/8/2011 2:23 PM

Batavia officials want more information about problems at rental housing properties before deciding whether to develop laws aimed at improving situations.

Aldermen on the city services committee Tuesday night asked the police chief for the number and types of calls police are answering at rental apartments, duplexes and houses.


"I need more information on what is happening to us" before deciding whether city staff should develop proposals for crime-free housing and rental inspection laws, 2nd Ward Alderman Vic Dietz said.

The city could require landlords to adhere to "crime-free housing" rules to get and keep a license. Those rules typically include using lease addenda that specifically indicate tenants will be kicked out if they commit criminal acts on a property. They also require landlords and managers to take training on topics such as crime prevention, applicant screening and evictions.

The city also could mandate regular inspections of the interiors of rental units, now that it has the home-rule authority to do so.

"I would like to know if there are any other city ordinances that already allow us to do what we want to be doing," said 5th Ward Alderman Eldon Frydendall, characterizing inspections as "intrusive," saying that many of the building code violations suspected at rental properties could also be found in owner-occupied properties.

"(Interior) inspections only need to be done on places that have (tenant) complaints," said Frydendall, who has owned rental properties.

Fourth Ward Alderman Jim Volk disagreed vehemently with Frydendall's position. Volk cited problems with several rental houses on Park Street in his ward, including drug dealing in the open, loud domestic disputes that spill into the street, foot-high weeds and people cutting up inoperative cars in their backyards. If police were able to prove a landlord wasn't taking steps to improve the quality of tenants, and keeping the properties up to snuff, the city could rescind the license.

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Police Chief Gary Schira said the department receives an average of two calls per year per unit at the town's large apartment complexes, and fewer calls at town homes and single-family homes that are rented. Batavia has four large multifamily complexes and three smaller ones. Schira did not know how many duplex or single-family homes (or rooms in such homes) are for rent.

Schira and community development director Jerry Swanson were trying to gauge the council's interest before researching what other towns do, how much it would cost Batavia to do anything and writing a proposed ordinance. Mayor Jeff Schielke, who was not present, has previously indicated he supports increased code enforcement for rental housing.

Schira presented a list of towns that have crime-free housing laws. He said that Schaumburg, which has had such laws for more than 10 years, saw a 12 percent decrease in calls for service to rental units in the first year.

Suburbs with crime-free housing laws include Aurora, Mount Prospect, Niles, Des Plaines, Elgin, Naperville, Palatine, Rosemont, Round Lake Beach, Glendale Heights and Carpentersville, according to a handout from Schira.