Rental properties in Buffalo Grove will undergo regular inspections beginning in 2013, under an ordinance adopted Monday night.
Trustees voted 5-1 to add a residential rental housing program to the village code. The program aims to “protect the health, safety and welfare of the resident of the community” by having village inspectors ensure that rented homes meet life safety standards outlined in the municipal code. The ordinance aims to:
- protect the public health and safety by ensuring rental units comply with minimum housing standards of village ordinances;
- protect the character and stability of residential areas;
- correct and prevent housing conditions that adversely affect or are likely to adversely affect the life, safety, general welfare and health, including the physical, mental and social well being of persons occupying dwellings;
- prevent the overcrowding of dwellings by requiring compliance with minimum space standards per occupant for each dwelling unit;
- facilitate the enforcement of minimum standards for the maintenance of existing residential building and thus to prevent slums and blight;
- preserve the value of land and building throughout the village.
“What we’d be looking for are property maintenance code issues,” said Carol Berman, deputy building commissioner. “We don’t want to be punitive. We want compliance.”
When violations are found, code officials will set a deadline for the owner to rectify the situation and schedule a second inspection date. Owners whose properties don’t comply with the village code will lose their rental licenses and will be given 60 days to vacate their tenants.
Officials did not specify Monday what sort of violations they'd report, but during a discussion last year, they mentioned such areas as plumbing, electricity and pest control.
Six employees in the building and zoning department will spend part of their days inspecting rented homes, said Berman, who pitched an early version of the proposal to village officials in 2011.
While officials made some last-minute revisions to the ordinance Monday night, some voiced support for the program while others expressed concerns.
“Whether they’re buying a home, building a home or renting a home, everyone should have a safe place to be,” said Trustee Mike Terson, who also supported the 2011 proposal.
Trustee Jeff Berman, who voiced concerns about inspections last year, said Monday he wasn’t completely sold on the ordinance. “I still have some concerns as to whether this is the right thing for the village to be doing,” he said. He ultimately voted in favor of the ordinance, but asked that staff provide quarterly reports about the program.
The strongest opposition came from Village President Jeff Braiman. “I’m not against public health and safety; to the contrary. But I don’t think this is something we should be getting into,” he said.
By singling out rented homes for inspections, “I think it’s making a distinction between class of ownership,” he said. And, he added, “there are certain privacy rights that we’re intruding on.”
Braiman only casts a vote when the six trustees are deadlocked. That was not the case Monday night.
Trustee Andy Stein, who cast the lone vote against the ordinance, suggested that staff might not be able to juggle the inspections with their existing work duties. He proposed that the village phase in the inspections by beginning with single-family homes.
Carol Berman said the staff was aware of the ordinance and “everybody is on board with this.”
Beginning Jan. 1, property owners will be required to obtain a rental license from the village each year. To apply, owners must provide their name and contact information, an emergency contact, information about the management company and details about the property, including the address and how many units it includes.
Licenses will cost $75 for rented single family homes, condominiums, town homes and row homes, while apartment building owners will be charged $150 per building plus $30 per unit. The annual fees include an initial inspection and a follow-up inspection, if necessary.
Twenty-five percent of the village’s 1,420 apartments will be inspected each year. All other rented homes, which also number around 1,400, will be inspected every year.
Additional rentals are likely, she added, as people invest in foreclosed homes or short sales. Currently, 187 homes in Buffalo Grove are either vacant or pending eviction, she said.
Other nearby villages with rental programs include Mount Prospect, Palatine, Prospect Heights, Schaumburg, Rolling Meadows and Wheeling,
Carol Berman said the management companies contracted by some developments will help the village identify which units are rented. Other rented homes will be hard to determine, she acknowledged, and will likely be identified with the help of transfer stamps, township records and citizen input.
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