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Ald. Sophia King (4th) speaking at the virtual July 22 City Council meeting

Local Alds. Sophia King (4th), Leslie Hairston (5th) and Jeanette Taylor (20th) today voted in favor of  ordinances concerning tenants' rights, the city's vehicle impoundment program and reform of police union contracts at a virtual City Council meeting.

The "Fair Notice" ordinance extends the notice period required for the non-renewal of leases and notice of increased rent from 30 days to up to 120 days, if tenants have lived at the property for more than three years. Tenants of six months to three years will get 60 days to secure new housing when landlords announce an intention to increase rent or not renew or terminate a year-long or month-to-month lease.

The ordinance passed 35-14; King and Hairston both spoke in favor of it during debate before the vote.

King noted that the ordinance exempts two- and three-flats and recalled two 4th Ward residents, an adult with a mother who had Alzheimer's disease, who were given 30 days to vacate their home of many years.

"We have to be balanced about this," she said. "Landlords will still have the ability — in the first, second and third years, if they find a tenant to be not a good tenant — to have all the recourses that they've already had. So this is really, I think, a very fair, a very balanced approach for everybody. I think we can do more, honestly, for our tenants. There's a lot of suffering going on, but I think this is a very good start."

Hairston concurred, saying, "I agree that under normal circumstances 120 days would be unreasonable, but under the circumstances that we find ourselves in today, the numerous people who don't have their jobs (or) have job insecurity, I think it's important that we give them the extra time that they need to get the money."

The ordinance passes a week after the Illinois Supreme Court approved a change to rules governing eviction proceedings mandating that property owners must file all related documents simultaneously when they file a complaint. That includes pertinent portions of a lease, a copy of the eviction issued by a landlord and proof the tenant received that document.

Property owners must now also prove their right to remove residents from the beginning of the proceeding, giving tenants the exact reason for an eviction, according to the rule. The Supreme Court also approved a standardized form for property owners to use in place of a notice, which explains the basis for an eviction, explaining that tenants defending themselves will be better prepared for a court hearing and attorneys can more easily evaluate cases.

The impoundment reform package reduces some fines to lower rates, caps storage fees at $1,000 and ends storage fee charges when individuals are unable to redeem their cars that the Chicago Police Department (CPD) possesses during an investigation.

It also ends impoundment for non-driving and non-public-safety-related offenses and for driving with a license suspended due to city debt. Furthermore, it adds new legal defenses, like an "innocent owner" defense to allow individuals to redeem their car if it was used without their knowledge or if they show the car should not have been impounded in the first place.

The council also approved police reforms the city got through union contracts with CPD sergeants, lieutenants and captains, including allowing the city to investigate anonymous complaints against supervisors. The measure also requires supervisors to come forward to report all misconduct, ends the requirement of destroying disciplinary records and prevents the names of complainants from being disclosed to officers until just before they are interviewed.

Alongside Gov. J.B. Pritzker's statewide proposal to establish a graduated income tax, Chicago voters will decide on measures to ask the Department of Planning and Development to "place equal focus on the goals of resiliency, equity and diversity" in a citywide development plan; whether the city should work to ensure all neighborhoods have broadband internet access; and whether they want the city to restrict the sale and possession of assault firearms.

In an interview after the meeting, Hairston said a hearing will likely be held on the Woodlawn Housing Protection Ordinance she is co-sponsoring with Taylor sometime in August. In a statement, Taylor called the day bittersweet, adding, "“I’m glad we, the city and community have agreed on the Woodlawn plan for housing. We have more work to do, and this is a big step in the right direction.”

Capitol News Illinois, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, contributed from Springfield. The Herald is a member of the Illinois Press Association.

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