Nuisance laws that require landlords to evict tenants when the police are called have swept the country at the local level.
At the same time, these laws, sometimes referred to as “crime-free” or “3-strikes” ordinances, have been mired in controversy.
That’s because the language being passed from city to city doesn’t always make exceptions for victims or those seeking assistance.
This is particularly troublesome when it comes to domestic violence. Victims who need police protection are further traumatized by being forced out of their homes. Those with children are especially vulnerable.
In Illinois, that’s about to change. State lawmakers have passed a measure that will override the harsh penalties in nuisance rental laws in dozens of cities across the state.
The new law also protects tenants with disabilities.
Landlords subject to these local ordinances have found themselves forced to choose between fines at the local level, or fines for violating state and federal anti-discrimination laws, including the Fair Housing Act.
The new state law, which goes into effect on November 19, 2015, mitigates this threat for landlords in Illinois. Among other things, the law bars local governments from enacting or enforcing ordinances that punish tenants or landlords for calls to police in response to incidents of domestic or sexual violence or on behalf of persons with disabilities.
In response, ACLU of Illinois and the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, which advanced the law, sent letters to 42 local governments informing them that their crime-free or nuisance property ordinances conflict with the new state law. The organizations urged these communities to repeal or amend their laws to avoid liability under the new statute.
“The law is clear – victims of domestic or sexual violence and individuals with disabilities no longer have to fear eviction when they need assistance from the police,” said Amy Meek, ACLU Staff Attorney. “We must ensure that this change in law is respected in communities large and small all across Illinois.”
According to the ACLU, the letters went to the most egregious, including eight local ordinances that specifically label domestic battery or domestic violence as a “nuisance” that can lead to a tenant’s eviction, without distinguishing between the abuser and the victim. Those cities include Alton, Champaign, Columbia, Herscher, Park City, Richton Park, Rock Island and Urbana, according to the ACLU. Thirty-four additional communities whose ordinances directly punish landlords or tenants based on the number of police calls to a particular residence – without excluding calls relating to domestic violence or persons with disabilities. Two of these communities, Chicago and Joliet, exclude calls made by victims of domestic violence or other crimes, but fail to extend protection to tenants with disabilities.
In addition, numerous other municipalities may have ordinances that run afoul of the new law. The ACLU and Shriver Center intend to monitor these municipalities for possible future action.
Kate Walz, Shriver Center Director of Housing Justice adds, “Punishing people for seeking police assistance does not make communities safer.”
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.