Elgin ready to get vacant homes in check
Elgin City Council members on Wednesday will consider an agreement that would contract out code enforcement duties to keep vacant properties in check. Collaborating with Hoffman Estates-based B&F Technical Code Services Inc. would mean the city can avoid hiring new employees but still have vacant residential properties monitored.
"This is the most cost-effective means to get the work done," said Rick Kozal, Elgin's assistant city manager.
City council members approved the vacant residential building ordinance in November 2010, with the goal being to minimize the impact of vacant homes on neighborhoods. No vacant properties have been registered or inspected since the new ordinance took effect.
Staff members determined the code department could not handle the workload involved with enforcing the ordinance as it is now. Community Development Director Marc Mylott estimated it would cost more than $160,000 a year to pay for two extra code enforcement officers, plus additional equipment costs.
B&F Technical Code Services would be paid based on fees collected through the program: $94 of the $200 annual registration fee for each vacant residence as well as $235 from the one-time $500 inspection fee. The city will keep the remainder of the fees for its own administrative expenses in the code and finance departments.
One group speaking out about the ordinance is the Realtor Association of the Fox Valley.
Ron Ewing serves as the chairman for government affairs on the board of directors and said the group has partnered with the Illinois Association of Realtors in opposing some of the language in the ordinance.
As it reads now, real estate agents could be seen as responsible parties for the homes they are selling, a concern for Ewing and other agents.
"If a real estate agent is a responsible party for a vacant property, all the fees and licensing issues go along with that," Ewing said.
Ewing said both associations have been in touch with the city and hope to see some modifications to the ordinance.
If the contract is approved by the council, B&F will be responsible for conducting an initial inspection on each vacant residence as well as following up to ensure long-term compliance with city ordinances. Property owners will be expected to keep homes from falling into dangerous disrepair that could provide refuge for criminal activity, lower neighborhood property values or present safety hazards to emergency responders.
"It's important to keep these maintained so they don't pull down the rest of the neighborhood," Kozal said.
Kozal said the city expects to have a lot of activity early on as properties are registered and initially inspected, but then fade away as the bulk of the work is completed.