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Thursday, September 10, 2015

New Law Restricts Crime Free Ordinances

Recently, the Illinois General Assembly passed a law that restricts municipalities and counties from enforcing their crime-free or chronic nuisance ordinances in a manner that would penalize tenants for contacting police or other emergency services in domestic abuse and sexual violence situations. P.A. 99-441. The pertinent language of the new law is as follows: 
No municipality shall enact or enforce an ordinance or regulation that penalizes tenants or landlords based on:
(a) contact made to police or other emergency services, if (i) the contact was made with the intent to prevent or respond to domestic violence or sexual violence; (ii) the intervention or emergency assistance was needed to respond to or prevent domestic violence or sexual violence; or (iii) the contact was made by, on behalf of, or otherwise concerns an individual with a disability and the purpose of the contact was related to that individual's disability;
(b) an incident or incidents of actual or threatened violence or sexual violence against a tenant, household member, or guest occurring in the dwelling unit or on the premises; or
(c) criminal activity or a local ordinance violation occurring in the dwelling unit or on the premises that is directly relating to domestic violence or sexual violence, engaged in by a tenant, member of a tenant's household, guest, or other party, and against a tenant, household member, guest, or other party. 
The law applies to both home rule and non-home rule municipalities. The law authorizes a tenant or landlord to bring a civil action against a municipality for a violation of the law to seek injunctive relief, compensatory damages, and attorneys fees.
The law appears to target nuisance ordinances (sometimes called disorderly house ordinances, chronic nuisance ordinances, or crime free ordinances) that label a property as a nuisance after it is the site of a certain number of calls for police or alleged nuisance conduct (a category that can include assault, harassment, stalking, disorderly conduct, and many other kinds of behavior).  After they are cited with a violation of the ordinance, property owners (landlords) typically are instructed to "abate the nuisance" or face steep penalties. Opponents to these type of ordinances argue that the effect of these ordinances is to have landlords evict the tenant, refuse to renew their lease, or instruct tenants not to call 911 even in situations where the tenant is a victim of a domestic abuse or sexual assault situation.
The law does not ban crime free ordinances outright, but instead restricts how a municipality can enforce its crime free ordinance where the criminal activity involves domestic abuse or sexual violence or involves a disabled individual.
Municipalities should review their current ordinances to ensure that they are consistent with this new law, which will become effective November 19, 2015. Municipal officials and employees should also be trained about the new limitations, to ensure that any enforcement action does not trigger the law, and result in a lawsuit against the municipality.
Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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