By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
LINCOLN PARK — It’s not that there hadn’t been local ordinances that detailed the responsibilities of rental property owners. Lincoln Park Mayor Thomas Karnes said the problem was those policies didn’t include enough enforcement guidelines.
“We’re just trying to tighten it up, put a little more teeth in it,” Karnes said.
As approved earlier this month by city council, revisions to chapter 1482 of the city’s municipal code now requires a building inspection prior to occupancy by tenants, and also gives the city added clout for enforcement. Previously, violations by property owners were subject to civil infractions — no matter how many times the property had not been in compliance. Under the updated policy, a third violation within a 12-month period is subject to a misdemeanor charge.
“Without penalties people would keep doing what they do,” Karnes said.
Another issue with the ordinance was that it did not require a city inspection prior to occupancy. Buildings now must be registered, inspected and hold a certificate of compliance before accepting tenants.
“The way things were, people had been allowed to move in before an inspection,” Karnes said. “This way, if it’s a vacant property, it has to be inspected first.”
The revisions were not prompted by any singular instance or complaint, Karnes said, but instead were long-overdue updates needed to better ensure public health and safety.
“None had been brought to our attention as being ‘dangerous,'” Karnes said.
There had been, however, numerous cases where properties hadn’t been kept up as well as possible.
“Some owners forget that they have this property,” Karnes said. Gutters had fallen, lawns went uncut, debris accumulated on the property, and complaints from tenants or neighbors went unanswered.
“It’s a quality of life thing for people who live there or next door,” Karnes said. “The people who are renting it out should maintain the property just like the people across the street. Our job is to make sure that’s done.”
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected])