The Rockford City Council has enacted new penalties for misusing the garbage service that the city provides to residential residences of four units and fewer. The Rockford Apartment Association provided input throughout the process with the hope the law that was passed would function well for people who invest in rental property in the City of Rockford. The goal of the Apartment Association is that any law should provide a way for an owner of rental property to comply. That means that to deserve a fine, the property owner must have control over the activity that causes the fine.
The version of the ordinance that was passed addressed many of our concerns. The most significant area that remains in contention is that before fines are assessed, one warning is given to the property location rather than the resident that violates the law. This means that all tenants in a multi-family building will not receive a warning and that new tenants will not receive a warning in properties where one has previously been given. To function effectively, the law should provide everyone with the same opportunity to be warned. Other concerns, such as how unexpected move-outs will be handled and the exact charges for eviction clean-up, will have to be addressed as the ordinance is implemented.
More important than the issues that were not resolved is the final version that was passed and the process that created the ordinance. The new ordinance addresses an important issue. Keeping the city clean is an inexpensive improvement that makes a significant difference in the appearance of neighborhoods. Since last July, the City accepted the input of the Apartment Association. During our conversations, Mayor Larry Morrissey expressed his intent to hold all members of the community to a higher standard, and so the ordinance includes liability for tenants who do not use the garbage service responsibly. This is the first time I am aware of where tenants are being held accountable for their actions by the city. A landlords only other option is the eviction process, which is not a practical solution due to the cost.
Aldermen Bill Timm and Carl Wasco worked hard throughout our negotiations to ensure that the concerns of both the City and the Apartment Association were addressed. The result of their work provided the final amendment, which gave property owners the means to avoid the fine if they evict a tenant who does not pay the fine. This is important because it will motivate property owners to evict tenants for a lease violation. This does not happen often enough. Most evictions are for non-payment of rent. Creating a sense of accountability among renters will help address quality of life issues for the neighbors of rental properties.
The ordinance that was passed will have a positive affect on the city. The members of the Apartment Association appreciate that our views were taken into consideration throughout the process, and we are confident the City will continue to work with us to address our remaining concerns. We are also encouraged by the innovative ideas that were applied regarding tenant liability. The mayor, city staff, and all of the aldermen should be commended for the time and effort they devoted to create this ordinance.
Paul Arena is the president of the Rockford Apartment Association.
From the March 8-14, 2006, issue