WOODSTOCK – A group of disgruntled tenants say a new property maintenance ordinance passed by city council members Tuesday adds a “tool” to their arsenal in fighting negligent and law-bending landlords.
But, city officials say, the complaint-based nature of the ordinance means those tenants will need to speak up about their issues – a difficult proposition for renters fearful of a bad situation getting worse, leaders of the tenant group have said.
“We know that this is not intended to be a cure-all, but we feel that it’s a good first step,” said Patrick Rozhon, who represented the group at Tuesday’s meeting.
Woodstock adopted the International Property Maintenance Code, an ordinance in place in Crystal Lake, Algonquin, Huntley, McHenry and several other county municipalities.
The code, according to a memo from city officials, provides standards that will “ensure that buildings are sanitary and fit for occupancy, and will not jeopardize local property values or residential quality of life.”
Several council members raised concerns about the fairness of how the ordinance would be enforced. Councilman Mark Saladin said he was concerned that neighbors would use the code to further petty, neighborly disputes.
“We look at it as a common sense code of enforcement,” Community & Economic Development Director Cort Carlson responded. “It would be up to the city inspector to determine whether it truly is a safety or health issue, or it becomes more of a civil issue with two residents.”
Rozhon and others originally spoke to council members in mid-September, detailing mold, sewage, flooding and roof issues at their current and previously rented residences. They called for help from the city to deal with landlords they said bullied them and neglected their needs.