A new ordinance enforcing residential rental inspections and property maintenance in Chicago Ridge is aimed at ensuring that all residences being rented in the village meet health and safety standards.
The village board on Tuesday approved the ordinance, which had been under discussion for several months. The board agreed that the legislation was needed to address complaints of illegal conversions, and rental properties being poorly maintained, inside and out.
Now, anyone planning to rent a house, apartment or condo must allow the village to inspect their property annually.
“We really did need this,” said Trustee William McFarland afterward, explaining that in his role as a firefighter prior to being elected he saw a lot of properties that did not meet safety codes.
“We would see kitchens divided into separate rooms, that people were living in,” he said.
“It will also address the problem of parking,” McFarland said. “When you have several families living in a single-family house, and everyone has cars, it causes congestion. It’s really going to clean up the village.”
McFarland said that the inspection fee will be $200 for a single-family house, and $75 per apartment or condo.
If code violations are found, they must be fixed within 30 days. If things are still out of order when an inspector returns, fines for first offenses will be $100. Fines for repeat violations will go up to $300, and will keep adding up.
“We need to have an incentive for the property owners to take care of the problems,” said Trustee Jack Lind.
Mayor Chuck Tokar added that property owners continually in arrears on fines refuse to pay them may also have their rental licenses revoked, after a hearing.
Also at the meeting, the board voted to hire two part-time licensing officers to handle the inspections and licensing of rental properties. They will work 15-20 hours per week, at $13 an hour.
In other business, the trustees also approved the hiring of attorney Kevin Camden as legislative counsel, a newly created position. The vote was 5-1, with only Lind voting against it.
Trustee Fran Coglianese said that Camden’s role will be as a consultant, serving as a second opinion for trustees in cases where they disagree with the advice of village attorney Burt Odelson. So he will only be paid on a case by case basis, and won’t be at most village board meetings.
She said the decision was made to hire him after trustees interviewed about five candidates.
“He has experience as a legislative counsel, doing the type of work we need him for,” Coglianese said.
The board agreed to hire a legislative counsel last month, at the same meeting that four trustees voted against Tokar’s appointment of Odelson as village attorney.
Although the village attorney role is a mayoral appointment, Trustee Bruce Quintos maintained that the mayor should have sought the advice of trustees before officially appointing Odelson. He had been serving as acting village attorney since last spring, when George Witous retired.
Quintos said Camden’s hourly fee is $170, compared to $175 for Odelson.
But Lind said he voted against the legislative counsel, in part because of the added cost.
“Also, I’ve never worked under a system like this. I see no need for it,” he said.