Guest Column: City of Rockford needs to work with, not against, property owners

By Paul Gorski

If government wants to punish us for the actions of others, we should be given the tools to solve or prevent those problems. Paul Arena’s guest column, “City fails public-private partnership” (June 6-12 issue of The Rock River Times) describes a local business association’s frustration in dealing with the City of Rockford on such an issue.

As Mr. Arena points out, “The public should be aware that representatives of the Rockford Apartment Association (RAA), along with representatives of the Rockford Area Association of Realtors (RAAR), have been meeting with the city regarding regulation of rental property for more than four years.” But after all that time, the city “circulates a proposal that encompasses all of the provisions of a licensing ordinance that we oppose most.”

The city and the RAA want to be able to deal with problem tenants more effectively. To be clear, we are talking about tenant behavior or activity problems, not property conditions. The city appears to prefer disciplining the landlords, whereas the landlords would like to be given the laws or solution to deal with the tenants. I don’t have a problem with the city going after the landlords, but only after giving the landlords the tools to deal with tenant behavior problems themselves, or to work through a review process.

One legitimate hurdle is that if a complaint is filed against a tenant, the police may not be able to share that information with a landlord because the case is under investigation. The city needs to solve that problem. It isn’t fair to punish landlords for tenant behavior without giving landlords the information they need to work with the tenant. Otherwise, refer the matter to an independent body.

A solution proposed by the RAA is a review committee, supervised by the City of Rockford Housing Board, to consider complaints about repeat offenders. The review committee would be independent of the landlords. This seems to be a reasonable and low-cost solution. I was a member of such a committee almost 30 years ago, reviewing nuisance complaints for college housing units. So, the idea isn’t new and is time-tested. It’s about time the city gives it a try.

I urge the City of Rockford to work with the RAA to resolve this shared problem and consider a community review committee to hear chronic tenant complaints.

Paul Gorski is a Cherry Valley Township resident and a former Winnebago County Board member.

From the June 20-26, 2012, issue

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