Vote on Cook County renters ordinance delayed a month

  • An ordinance aimed at safeguarding an estimated 245,000 apartment dwellers in the Cook County suburbs was deferred by a county board committee Wednesday at the request of chief co-sponsor Scott Britton, who said the public deserved time to take a closer look at the measure.

    An ordinance aimed at safeguarding an estimated 245,000 apartment dwellers in the Cook County suburbs was deferred by a county board committee Wednesday at the request of chief co-sponsor Scott Britton, who said the public deserved time to take a closer look at the measure. Daily Herald File Photo, 2010

  • Scott Britton

    Scott Britton

  • Kevin Morrison

    Kevin Morrison

 
 
Updated 12/16/2020 6:32 PM

A vote on a controversial renters' rights ordinance proposed by a pair of North and Northwest suburban Cook County commissioners has been delayed a month, amid ongoing negotiations with landlord groups and multiple revisions of the legislation.

The proposed Residential Tenant and Landlord Ordinance was set for a vote by the county board's zoning and building committee Wednesday before consideration by the full board Thursday. But chief co-sponsor Commissioner Scott Britton of Glenview pulled it during the committee meeting Wednesday morning since the latest revisions to the 29-page ordinance were only released to the public less than 24 hours earlier.

 

That followed a 3-hour meeting Monday that included Britton, co-sponsor Kevin Morrison of Mount Prospect, Zoning and Building Committee Chairman Peter Silvestri of Elmwood Park, and interest groups representing tenants and landlords.

"Everybody was moderately dissatisfied," Britton said of the revised ordinance that resulted from those negotiations.

"The suburban residents of Cook County have waited 34 years," Britton added. "We can wait another month to get this right."

The legislation, modeled after a 1986 Chicago ordinance, would limit late rent fees and security deposits, allow renters to withhold rent payments when repairs aren't made or working utilities aren't supplied, and stiffen penalties for lockouts, among other provisions.

Among some of the changes made to the ordinance, the sponsors removed a requirement to disclose the address of a bank where a security deposit is held, based on landlords' feedback that a similar provision was the leading cause of lawsuits in Chicago, and concerns about lawsuits against well-meaning landlords for innocent clerical mistakes, according to Julie Kaviar, Britton's chief of staff.

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The sponsors also added a 48-hour right for landlords to cure any administrative errors, so that they are not unfairly punished in instances of judicial discretion, Kaviar said.

The Neighborhood Building Owners Alliance, one of the groups involved in negotiations, released a statement Wednesday thanking the commissioners for deferring the ordinance, while expressing hopes of working with them to craft something "balanced."

"The NBOA supports providing tenants with more protections through an ordinance. However, an issue of this importance requires thoughtful deliberation to ensure neighborhood housing providers do not end up liable for thousands of dollars in fines and attorney's fees for inconsequential and unintended violations of the ordinance that cause no harm to any tenant. Tenants' rent dollars should be spent maintaining their buildings and keeping rents affordable."

The measure wouldn't apply to owner-occupied buildings of six or fewer units, and under the latest revisions, single-family dwellings where the owner or a family member has lived in the past year, and single-room occupancy apartments where a tenant has lived for less than a month.

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