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Proposed tenant ordinance could drive quality housing providers out of business

It would force other housing providers to increase rents to cover additional costs.

Costs facing housing providers have increased as people spend all their time at home, writes Jeff Weinberg of Drexel Properties.
Brian Ernst/Sun-Times

The economic impact of the pandemic has left many tenants in Cook County struggling to pay their rent. The costs facing housing providers, however, continue uninterrupted and actually increase as people spend all their time at home. The ability of neighborhood housing providers to maintain their buildings and make all their payments are in jeopardy.

Despite this, housing providers are working with tenants: giving them time to pay rent, helping them find financial resources and, yes, even giving them discounts on their rent.

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In the belief that it will protect tenants, Cook County is proposing a Residential Tenant Landlord Ordinance (RTLO), unaware of irreversible and unintended consequences. As written, the ordinance will harm communities by driving quality housing providers out of the market and forcing those who remain to increase rents to make up for the additional costs.

The RTLO creates an adversarial relationship between housing provider and tenant. It would essentially remove tenant obligations, limit late fees to basically zero, ban alternatives to security deposits, and mandate a burdensome system of notification that doesn’t match real-world practices.

Worst of all, the ordinance would remove judicial discretion, unduly imposing stiff penalties on landlords for the smallest of infractions. For example, a comparable measure in Chicago has forced many housing providers to pay thousands of dollars in fees for technical violations like not disclosing the interest rate paid on security deposits, when they don’t, in fact, collect security deposits. Landlords also need protection by the law, or else they will have no choice but to raise rents to cover the costs they will face.

One indication the ordinance’s sponsors do not understand the role of the housing provider was their recent op-ed in this paper which they erroneously stated that landlords can lock out tenants without being granted legal authority. The Illinois Forcible Entry and Detainer Act is clear, and landlords who lock out their residents will be prosecuted. There is no need for new laws to criminalize actions that are already illegal.

Housing providers are in the customer service business. Most of us take pride in our properties and the relationships we establish with our residents. We are asking that Cook County take the time to consult with us in order to develop an ordinance that benefits our communities. It is time to dispel the myth that housing providers are bad by creating an ordinance that serves residents and housing providers alike.

Jeff Weinberg
Drexel Properties
Board Member, Neighborhood Building Owners Alliance
Chicago

Grateful for a Catholic education

Thank you Maudlyne Ihejirika for your wonderful article in the Sun-Times chronicling the faith journey of Cardinal Wilton Gregory. Cardinal Gregory was my classmate at St. Carthage and I am also grateful for my Catholic education and the priests and nuns who poured into our lives. My Catholic education paved the way for me to attend both Northwestern and Harvard.

As was pointed out by Elaine Gregory, the cardinal’s sister, it was the dedication and compassion of the Adrian Dominican Sisters that empowered us to reach beyond our experiences and environments. They believed in the promise and possibility of their Black students and their faith in us was the wind beneath our dreams. That same intense devotion to our education was modeled also by the courage, commitment and conviction of Monsignor John Hayes and Father Gerry Weber. Monsignor Hayes had marched in Selma in 1965, and when the white families abandoned the parish during the white flight of the 1960s, Monsignor Hayes welcomed Black families and their children into the parish.

I am grateful also for the Black mothers and fathers who valued education and made the monetary sacrifice to give their children an opportunity to soar. Let this be a teachable moment that shows that when a society, teachers and parents invest, uplift and encourage a Black child, the door of opportunity swings wide with hope and promise.

State Sen. Jacqueline Y. Collins, Chicago