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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

New Law Changes the Game for Ordinance Enforcement

Governor Rauner recently signed legislation that could change the way Illinois cities and villages enforce local ordinances. In the past, non-home rule municipalities had to file an action in circuit court to enforce an administrative adjudication order. As a result, many non-home rule cities and villages have not locally adjudicated their ordinances because they still needed to go to circuit court to enforce the hearing officer’s orders. Other non-home rule units have sometimes decided not to prosecute minor ordinance and property maintenance violations because of the costs associated with going to circuit court.

With the adoption of Public Act 99-293, which is effective immediately, municipalities should consider creating, or increasing their use of, a local system of administrative adjudication to enforce their ordinances. As we previously reported, this law provides:
  1. an administrative adjudication decision is enforceable in the same manner as a court order or judgment;
  2. any expense that the municipality incurs in enforcing an administrative adjudication decision (including attorney’s fees, court costs, property demolition costs) can be collected against the defendant after the costs are fixed by the hearing officer or court; and
  3.  the recording of the judgment will also be a lien against the real estate or personal estate, or both, of the defendant.

With a system of administrative adjudication, non-home rule municipalities can now efficiently prosecute ordinance violations, and all municipalities can recover costs associated with enforcing the judgment. While there are some costs associated with establishing and administering a system of administrative adjudication, these costs can be shared between municipalities by intergovernmental agreement, and will reduce the costs associated with repeated trips to circuit court. Home rule and non-home rule municipalities alike should consult their attorneys to develop a new ordinance enforcement strategy based on this significant new law.

Post authored by Daniel J. Bolin and Steven D. Mahrt


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