The Daily Illini

Urbana City Council seeks to enact new rental property laws

By Whitney Blair Wyckoff

The Urbana City Council has proposed a new ordinance which some say will encourage landlords to be more proactive when responding to tenant complaints.

This rental registration program will require landlords to officially register with the city and submit to more frequent inspections.

If an inspector plans to visit a tenant’s apartment, the tenant would be notified 72 hours in advance.

The new program’s purpose is to raise funds for a new inspector, and would cost Urbana tenants an extra $1 per month.

The council held a public hearing on this issue on Sept. 25, but the final council vote will probably take place later in the year.

Esther Patt, coordinator for the University Tenant Union said that the main change that will come about if the ordinance is passed is increased accountability.

“Inspections are good, but enforcements are what’s needed,” Patt said, explaining that the ordinance would lead to shorter time periods to correct any problems found with the properties and the establishment of fines. “I can’t recall a tenant ever complaining about an inspector on their property.”

Colin Bishop, president of the Student American Civil Liberties Union and the Illinois Student Senate Committee on Student Rights, said that despite his belief in the importance of privacy rights, he supports the proposed program.

“There are some checks on the system,” he said. “In this situation, it seems like the payoff is really good.”

Bishop also said that a program like this is especially important in a college community.

“I think it is important for someone to make sure buildings are safe,” he said.

Opponents of the ordinance, like Andrew Timms, a member of the board of directors for the Central Illinois Apartment Association, said that it would infringe on tenant privacy rights.

“We would want our residents to maintain equal footing with other residents with regard to privacy,” Timms said.

He also said that additional regulation for landlords is an unnecessary change.

“There is already a program in place to handle tenant complaints,” Timms said. “It works.”

He said that tenants need only to call the city if they have a complaint.

“The city would have people believe that this is the only way of handling landlord complaints. That is disingenuous,” he said.

Timms also said that the extra $1 this program would cost tenants doesn’t account for the potential overhead costs.

Patt, who will celebrate her 30th year at the Tenant Union this month, said that many of the same landlords who are objecting to the ordinance also campaigned against an 1994 city ordinance that mandated that landlords give advance notice before entering a tenants apartment.

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