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Policy and governance » Landlord/tenant relations

Human Rights Code

Oak Park, Cook County

Since the ordinance was adopted, Oak Park has experienced improved landlord-tenant relations and fewer court appearances related to code violation disputes.

Goal

Educate landlords and tenants on their rights and responsibilities.

Target

Landlords and tenants of rental buildings.

Financing

No financing attached.

Success

Court appearances have decreased since adoption in 1968.

Lessons learned

Education can address many of the common landlord-tenant conflicts that arise before court involvement becomes necessary.

Policy background

In the 1960s, many conflicts arose between landlords and tenants in Oak Park because there were no common rules regarding their respective responsibilities. With half of the village’s population living in multifamily rental buildings, there was an obvious need for a supportive system to resolve landlord/tenant disputes and maintain positive relationships between the village, its property owners and its renters. A multijurisdictional committee comprised of landlords, tenants and realtors was formed to address the issue. Working with Oak Park’s Community Relations Department, the committee drafted the Chapter 13 Human Rights Code, which the Village Board approved in 1968. Updated and amended several times since, the ordinance has proven very useful.

How it works

Throughout the year, Oak Park provides educational sessions throughout the community, where tenants receive information regarding the ordinance as well as their rights and responsibilities. In addition, mandatory annual meetings are held with Oak Park landlords to update them on recent ordinance updates. Landlords are encouraged to communicate this information to tenants, which leads to improved relationships and communication.

An underlying goal of the Human Rights Code was to resolve conflicts over code violations before resorting to the judicial system. Since the ordinance was adopted, the Village has experienced improved landlord-tenant relations and fewer court appearances related to code violation disputes.

Public involvement

Concerned Oak Park citizens brought the issue of creating a landlord/tenant mechanism to the Village. Public hearings were held to discuss the implementation of the ordinance, as well as hear and respond to feedback from the community.

Landlords were initially skeptical because they thought the ordinance would increase their responsibilities and costs. Prior to its enactment, landlords were being taken to court frequently, at a great cost to the city, due to violations of tenant rights. The multijurisdictional group came together to discuss these concerns, resolve differences and help form an effective ordinance that would successfully support a diverse community. Conflict resolution at the local level was a selling point to all parties involved during the planning process.

Contact

Department of Community Development, Village of Oak Park
708-358-5410, housing@oak-park.us, www.oak-park.us

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