Residential nuisance ordinance requires amendment

August 27, 2014

Editor’s note: The following is in reference to the City of Rockford’s Chronic Nuisance Ordinance, detailed in the July 16-22 articles “Landlords question wording of nuisance ordinance” and “Rockford Apartment Association, Rockford Area Realtors oppose two ordinance proposals.”

Through FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request, I obtained two memorandums written by city attorney Jennifer Cacciapaglia, who gave the opinion that the ordinance was illegal since Rockford is not a home rule city. A non-home rule city must follow state law regarding municipalities as described in the Illinois municipal code (65 ILCS 5/), which I received with the memos.

On page 3 of the ordinance, it is written that it is the opinion of the city’s legal department that sections 17-42 (d) and (e) and 17-43 are unenforceable because, as the memos describe, Rockford is not a home rule city, so the mayor cannot appoint members to a housing board.

Paraphrased from the memos indicated on page 3 of the ordinance:

From the Jan. 14, 2013 memo.

Rockford cannot create a mandatory housing board to which cases of nuisance activity must be referred.

If Rockford Apartment Association and Rockford Area Association of Realtors wish to create a housing board for nuisance activity, they must have Illinois law amended.

The Jan. 28, 2013, memo addresses the “shall” in Section 17-51 of the ordinance.

How much did Rockford spend on the rental property registration software? The cities of Freeport, Orangeville and Monroe combined resources to buy the registration software. The software cost money.

Forrest Snavely
Loves Park, Illinois

From the Aug. 27-Sept. 2, 2014, issue

3 Comments

  1. Paul Arena

    August 27, 2014 at 10:30 am

    I assume Mr Snavely is not an attorney. He is repeating the opinion of the City of Rockford, who opposed citizen involvement in the procedures to correct nuisance behavior. The legal opinion obtained by RAA differs from that of Rockford’s legal department. To read that opinion go to this link

    http://www.rockfordapartmentassociation.org/documents/1_22_13_memo_from_Di_Monte_&_Lizak_on_Home_Rule_authority_re_ordinance.pdf#zoom=100

    To read the memo Mr Snavely has referenced go to this link.

    http://www.rockfordapartmentassociation.org/documents/1_28_2013_memo_City_legal_to_council_Chronic_Nuisance_Ordinance_201407.pdf#zoom=100

    Please read the first page of the memo that was issued on the day the ordinance passed the council. In that memo the city objects to the mandate to involve the housing board but the council passed the ordinance with that mandate. When the city published the ordinance they unilaterally changed the language to make the required involvement of the housing board optional.

    Changing the language that was passed by the council is, in my opinion, illegal and unethical.

    Paul Arena
    RAA President

  2. Conor Brown

    August 27, 2014 at 11:15 am

    The housing board is expressly advisory – it even says so within the ordinance. We have advisory boards on homelessness, youth, and parking, to name a few. Does Rockford need home rule authority to enact such bodies? If Mr. Snavely (and City Legal, for that matter) is really concerned about the abuse of power without home rule status on creating an advisory board, then where is the statutory authority expressly given to require registration? If we are going to have a strict and narrow interpretation of powers granted, we should be consistent.
    The software purchased by the City of Rockford is the very same software purchased by the City of Freeport. It is $1,599 for the software and $5,000 for the website (where landlords register) for the first year. After that, it is $995 total a year to license it. It is customizable, so every community can make it their own.
    Conor Brown
    Government Affairs Director
    Rockford Area Realtors

  3. Paul Gorski

    August 27, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    The city has the authority to enforce building ordinances. Part of that authority extends to the creation of a housing board. Home rule not needed. Why would legislators give non home rule cities the ability to enforce building ordinances, but not the tools (a board) to enforce the rules? The authority to create this board is correctly noted in the links that Mr. Arena provided. The jurisdiction of the board may not exceed the jurisdiction that the city has in enforcing building codes. But the board could be given no jurisdiction, or legal authority, and serve only as an advisory board and or mediator. It appears that the published ordinance states the board is advisory.

    Mr. Arena raises a good point. If the city council voted on an ordinance that stated what authority, or jurisdiction, that the housing board would have, but city staff changed the wording, altering the authority of the board, that would be unethical at best. Possibly illegal. Probably a violation of the open meetings act, as altering the authority of the board after the council vote, without a public vote, would violate the open meetings act as a final decision was made behind closed doors. That said, the only document I have found is the public document that states the board is advisory. We would need to see the original ordinance as presented at city council and the minutes of that meeting to see if the ordinance was amended on the floor, changing the authority to advisory.

    If Mr. Brown’s dollar amounts are accurate, those software and website hosting costs are very reasonable, as long as the software and website work as advertised. I am not attorney, but I am a software and hardware technology manager and I do have some experience in this field.

    Thank you,

    Paul Gorski

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