Illinois State Bill would ravage Tenant Law, Alderman David Orr says

By James Strong

Several Chicago aldermen and community activist groups charged Monday that real estate interests have backed a move in Springfield to pass legislation to weaken the city’s tenants rights ordinance and similar laws in 15 other communities.

Legislation sponsored by Rep. Larry W. Hicks (D., Mt. Vernon) would effectively pre-empt home-rule powers and prevent tenants under existing codes from withholding rents or deducting repair bills, the opponents said.

In an attack on the Springfield real estate lobby, Aid. David Orr (49th), chief sponsor of the Chicago ordinance, said, “After losing in every other arena, they have turned to the state legislature in a last-ditch, llth-hour attempt to scuttle our ordinance.

“With a coalition of Downstate and suburban legislators, they would erase a Chicago ordinance which was enacted by a near-unanimous 42-4 vote of my colleagues in the City Council.”

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At a City Hall press conference, Tim Carpenter, a representative of the Metropolitan Tenants Organization, said the proposed legislation would “see to it that tenants seeking repairs or restoration of essential services would once again have to depend on the good will of the landlord or else move out.”

Orr said that under the proposed law landlords could waive their responsibility to make repairs, could remove the tenant’s right to withhold rents if a landlord fails to keep premises “fit and habitable” and could legally require that all rent payments be made in cash.

“If a tenant has a problem with a lack of heat in the winter, the tenant and landlord would be required to give each other a total of five separate notices at specified times before the tenant could take action. A more complicated and unworkable procedure could hardly be imagined,” Orr said.

Joining in opposition to the measure in the state legislature were Aid. Danny Davis (29th), Aid. Helen Shiller (46th) and Aid. Ann Rainey of Evanston. Evanston and Chicago are among the 16 commu-
Ald. David Orr
nities with tenant-landlord codes.

Davis said the group will urge Chicago area members of the General Assembly to block the legislation.

“The Chicago ordinance is the most progressive piece of legislation ever passed by the City Council and we will not stand by and allow it to be destroyed,” Davis said.

The measure has passed second reading in the Illinois House and Orr said he feared that without community protest a final adverse vote could occur this week.

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