Bracing for wave of evictions, City Council OKs ‘Fair Notice’ ordinance to protect renters
Bracing for “mass evictions,” a divided Chicago City Council agreed Wednesday to give renters more notice — up to 120 days — before landlords terminate their leases or raise their rents.
The final vote was 35 to 14. Proponents called the protections the “bare minimum” for renters who have lost jobs or had paychecks cut during the pandemic.
Opponents warned 120 days’ notice was too long and puts too much pressure on the owners of small residential buildings.
Ald. Ray Lopez (15th), an outspoken critic of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, asked for a roll call vote, only to stop himself and ask to speak.
Lightfoot could have cut him off and proceeded with the vote, but she didn’t.
“Thank you, Madame President. I appreciate that — truly,” the alderman said.
Mandatory protections put “another undue burden on small-unit owners” who are the “backbone of Chicago neighborhoods,” Lopez argued.
“We will have a foreclosure crisis on these units if we continue with policies like this that do not incorporate some sort of relief for those small-unit building owners,” Lopez said.
Ald. Nick Sposato (38th) noted it “takes forever” to get rid of a “bad tenant.”
“People are not gonna want to own apartment buildings in this city anymore. We’re making it too tough on ’em,” Sposato said.
Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), dean of the Socialist Caucus, countered that the mayor’s ordinance is a “good start,” but only a start.
“Other cities have moved forward on much stronger tenant protections. I hope that we, as a city, will also do that. We need to move forward on just cause for eviction,” he said.
Tenants have had just 30 days notice before rent increases or nonrenewal of leases. It’s “nearly impossible to land on your feet well” in that time, Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara has said.
Now, tenants who have lived in their apartments at least six months have 60 days to find new housing when landlords either increase rent, refuse to renew leases or terminate multiyear or month-to-month leases. Renters in their units more than three years get 120 days.
The Fair Notice Ordinance wasn’t the only housing controversy aired Wednesday.
When Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) argued Lightfoot’s plan to extend the life of a historic landmark district in Pilsen would make the gentrifying neighborhood even less affordable, the mayor pushed back.
“I take great umbrage to the suggestion that you were blindsided or anybody in your community was, given the enormous amount of time that [Planning and Development Commissioner Maurice] Cox … spent with you. You may not be happy. But to suggest that somehow this was sprung on you is simply not correct.”
Wednesday’s action-packed meeting was the last before the traditional August recess.
Before adjourning, aldermen also:
◆ Imposed new safety requirements on senior buildings, including food and medicine delivery and mandatory tenant checks.
◆ Ratified an arbitrator’s ruling with police supervisors that ends the 40-year ban on anonymous complaints and will lay the groundwork for similar disciplinary changes with the larger and more militant Fraternal Order of Police.
◆ Strengthened requirements in the rare instances when developers seek to use implosion to demolish buildings to prevent a repeat of the April 11 debacle at a shuttered coalfired power plant in Little Village.