Rental property owners challenge Zion inspection ordinance

by Long Hwa-shu

Upholding the age-old adage that “A man’s home is his castle,” a group of rental property owners in Zion is challenging the city’s ordinance to inspect their properties.

The property owners, many of them members of the Lake County Property Investors Association, are planning to file suit against Zion’s rental licensing ordinance calling it “unnecessary,” “big government encroaching on their rights,” “cost-prohibitive,” and “creating an undue burden” on them. The association, however, is not a plaintiff of the suit.

Bill Powers, a rental property owner says Zion's new inspection law is "burdensome." - Tina Johansson photo
Bill Powers, owner of 15 rental properties in Zion, says the city’s new inspection law is “burdensome.” – Tina Johansson photo

Spear-heading the drive is Terry Boone, a rental property owner in Zion, who has retained an attorney to fight the ordinance and has put up $20,000 of his own money to foot the legal expenses. He is urging rental property owners, similarly situated, to join him as plaintiffs in the pending law suit to be filed in Lake County Circuit Court.

Zion Mayor Al Hill
Zion Mayor Al Hill defends an ordinance to inspect rental properties. City of Zion photo

Zion Mayor Al Hill defended the ordinance, stressing that it is “a life safety issue “ that the city is concerned about. Zion, he said, is trying “to upgrade its housing “ environment because of an un-proportionally large number of Section 8 rental properties the city has.

Boone who owns two apartment buildings with 21 units and a single-family house in Zion pointed out that similar ordinances in other municipalities across the country have been challenged by irate owners with apparent success in some cases.

Just last month, he said, a Minnesota property owner refused a government inspection of “their rental property.” And according to Boone, the courts, finding no probable cause, refused the city’s request to gain access to their property.

Citing another case, he said in September, a federal court ruled an Ohio municipality’s rental inspection ordinance “unconstitutional.”

“It’s time that we, Zion property owners, stand up, like our colleagues in Minnesota and Ohio and say no to costly, time- consuming, burdensome government,” said Boone in a note to other Zion rental property owners.

William Powers, owner of RTO Property in Waukegan, echoed his sentiments. Powers who owns 15 single family houses in Zion contends that the city went beyond other municipalities in imposing heavy costs under its ordinance.

 

 

Zion rental property owners have been urged to post signs like this on their property.
Zion rental property owners have been urged to post signs like this by those not in favor of the city ordinance.

“It’s an unnecessary burden,” he said, pointing out that Zion’s licensing fee at $75 doubles that of Waukegan.

The inspection and the associated penalty, he surmised, are not “conducive to harmonious relationship between rental property owners and the city.”

In defending the ordinance, Mayor Hill said the city is concerned about health and safety. “What we are looking for are not stains on the carpet, but things like (proper) electrical equipment, smoke detectors and whether there are cock roaches.”

“I don’t think it’s a burden for the property owners, we make it as easy as possible to have the inspection done,” he said.

Hill, former director of the Zion Park District who became mayor in May 2015, pointed out while Zion has 24,000 residents or only 3.8 percent of Lake County’s population, it is burdened with 35 percent of the Section 8 vouchers issued by the Lake County Housing Authority. Section 8 is a federal program to provide rental assistance to eligible low-income families but administered by local housing authorities.

Many of these rental properties, he said, are owned by out-of-towners who he claimed “don’t keep up with their properties.”

Attorney Daniel K. Sinclair of Gurnee, retained by Boone to represent a coalition of landlords of residential properties in Zion, has written to Ianson seeking to extend the deadline for rental property owners to obtain a certificate of compliance to May 2 “to allow adequate time for evaluation and preparation.”

According to Boone, some Zion landlords have been contributing $75 to $100 per unit to fight the ordinance. Meanwhile, he is planning to contact other rental property owners through mass mailing.

While acknowledging a legal fund has yet to be set up because of “the fast moving nature of the case,” Boone assured that “every dollar will be transparently accounted for.” Boone can be reached at tbooneteam@comcast.net or 847-774-8259.

4 thoughts on “Rental property owners challenge Zion inspection ordinance

  • February 27, 2016 at 10:42 am
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    Ladies and Gentlemen,
    The time to stand up for your United States Constitutional rights has arrived in Zion, IL.
    Under the 4th Ammendment, your home is your castle and the right to illegal Search and Seizure shall not be infringed. Both you and your tenants have the right to require a Court Issued Warrant before any inspection is made by Government Athorities. Additionally, no penalties shall be imposed if you exercise your right and require a Warrant prior to any inspection.
    Facing fines of $100 to $750 per day is certainly a penalty. How then can the City of Zion conclude they are acting in the best interest of the people?
    If you were a Tenant instead of a Landlord, how would you feel about the City Government inspecting your home every year. Remember, any unlawful thing that is discovered could result in your arrest. Sure, they say they are only looking for Safety concerns. However the Ordinence says otherwise. Your life will be under a microscope. This type of inspection is what started the American Revolution against the British as well as the high Taxes imposed. Does that sound familiar? Remember, if you don’t pay attention to History, it will be repeated.
    Stand with us to protect all Americans and their rights to enjoy the privacy of their own home. Freedom is not having Government Officials inspecting your personal living space.
    Sincerely, Ray Kiefer

    theYOUjournal cannot vouch for the accuracy of comments and figures cited in this and other commentaries by readers.

    Reply
  • April 22, 2016 at 9:07 am
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    Well folks, what’s the alternative? Nobody ever likes change but this is a big step for the betterment of the entire community…Landlords, you need to wrap your arms around this one…

    Reply
  • January 5, 2017 at 8:07 pm
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    I am a landlord in Round Lake Beach and I agree these inspections are not necessary. I stated this every year to my village. Unless, I make structure changes to the home, tenant moves in or out, or the tenant files a complaint, there is no need for an inspection every year. This year they sent a inspector from the county, not the village, and failed my house. One I called to contest his findings or to explain his citations, the manager and district manager stated they will come for the reinspection. Since when does a district manager have that kind of time for a routine inspection. We have rights and they are being violated. He stated its for my protection and safety, I said it is personal. Our fee is $75 and you must take a crime prevention class your first year. The village is making a boat load of money for annual rental fees.

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