Guest Column: Residential Quality Support Ordinance will improve quality of life for residents
By Paul Arena
Rockford Apartment Association president
The City of Rockford has formally announced that the software to provide the communication included in the Residential Quality Support Ordinance is ready for use.
The ordinance was passed by the city council last January with the intent of improving neighborhoods by assisting landlords in preventing disturbances that become repetitive on rented property.
The ordinance is not a Crime-Free Housing law. Those types of ordinances are designed to punish the property owner for the conduct of their tenant. They use forced eviction as an alternative to the judicial process, and so people who rent are punished over accusations rather than convictions. Crime-Free Housing laws are abusive to both the landlord and the tenant.
Instead of focusing on penalizing landlords and evicting tenants, the Residential Quality Support Ordinance is designed to mediate problems. The first step is to correct disruptive behavior. Removing tenants from their homes should be a last resort. It is better for everyone to stop the disturbances from repeating and keep the tenant in their home, rather than moving a problem from one neighborhood to another. When disruptive behavior becomes repetitive, the ordinance provides for mediation by an advisory housing board. Only when this advice is ignored and the problems continue can there be penalties imposed on the property owner and the tenant.
This new software is an easy tool for landlords to use. By providing contact information, a property owner can receive a report by text or e-mail of an incident at a property involving police or the fire department the day after it occurred. Eventually, code enforcement complainants will also be communicated to allow issues to be corrected before a code inspector has to take the time to send a violation notice. The efficient communication provided by this software will make landlords aware of problems on rented property before it becomes repetitive and disrupts the lives of other tenants and neighbors.
Property owners need to know they are not required to take action every time they receive an incident report. A first notification may be an isolated incident. Tenants should not be made to feel as if they can’t call the police when they need help. What landlords need to monitor is multiple notifications for the types of incidents that disturb the neighborhood. It is at those times that the landlord may need to intervene.
Government, landlords and tenants all have obligations related to rental property. Tenants are citizens of Rockford, just like homeowners, and should respect their neighbors just as a homeowner would. Landlords do not have the ability to control people. We manage property, not the lives of our residents. However, when a tenant continually uses a property in a way that becomes intolerable to the neighborhood, a landlord can intervene and remove the tenant.
Notifications from the registry are not sufficient, as the only evidence in eviction cases is related to disruptive behavior. Proving that disruptive behavior has occurred requires that government cooperate by providing the evidence necessary.
Government, landlords and tenants all play a role in keeping our neighborhoods peaceful. This ordinance is designed to foster the necessary communication and cooperation. I believe that over time this partnership will lead to a better quality of life for all people living in Rockford.
Anyone who owns property where any portion is rented is required to register by March 1, 2014. Registration is free and easy. The registry can be found at RentalRegistry.Rockfordil.gov. Many of the members of the Rockford Apartment Association have already registered without difficulty and are receiving incident notifications. The only concerns I have received are from people who don’t own a computer. A friend or family member can help those without computers register, or the Rockford Apartment Association and the Rockford Area Association of Realtors will host a help session from 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Realtor Association’s building, 6776 E. State St. In addition to your address and phone number, you will need an e-mail address for incident reports to be sent to. You may use a friend’s or family member’s e-mail address, or the Rockford Apartment Association will set one up for you.
From the Nov. 27-Dec. 3, 2013, issue