Council debates renter issues

By Nate Sandstrom

Landlords and residents debated a proposal in front of the Urbana City Council Monday night that would require property owners in West Urbana who rent out single-family homes to register their property with the city.

The ordinance would require those property owners and managers to register their names, addresses and phone numbers with the city before they are allowed to rent the property. Every time the property is leased, property owners would have to submit a sworn affidavit stating that they had informed tenants that no more than four unrelated people are allowed to live in a home. Tenants would also have to submit an affidavit stating that they had been informed of the rules and would not allow the house to become over-occupied.

Property owners would pay a one-time $10 fee that would cover all the property they own, as well as $3 for each affidavit they filed, under the proposed plan.

The proposal would also require that all advertisements for a property would need to state the maximum number of people who are allowed to live in a home.

Esther Patt, alderwoman and head of the Tenant Union, said the rule was intended to help students because the law already states that no more than four people can live in most single-family homes. She said that often students are unaware of this rule, and after the city discovers the violation, landlords had kicked them out to avoid being penalized. She said the ordinance would help correct the problem because tenants would be aware of the rule at the time they signed the ordinance.

Glenn Berman, who lives and rents property in the area, supported the measure. He said that several properties in the city are over-occupied and that landlords who do not over-occupy struggle to compete with those who do.

But Sally Stocks Eissfeldt, member of the Central Illinois Apartment Association, argued that the registry would create another level of bureaucracy in city government and said the costs of the program would have to be passed onto tenants.

Seth Fein, a local resident, said that he thought that the ordinance would do little to curb overoccupancy in the neighborhood. As a former University student, he said the only way students were able to live in these properties was to over-occupy them. He also criticized the city’s policy of no more than four unrelated people as too broad. Each property should be evaluated separately, he said.

Final action on the proposal was postponed.