Experts from local rental housing organizations provided practical resources and advice for small Evanston landlords during a webinar Wednesday evening.

Evanston landlords got tips at a webinar Wednesday. Credit: Pixabay stock image

Hosted by the city’s Housing & Grants Division, the event came shortly after the new small landlord task force opened a survey to gather input for its landlord assistance program. The program will use federal ARPA funds to provide local, small landlords financial relief from the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Philip DeVon from the Metropolitan Tenants Organization opened the webinar by covering material resources available to Evanston landlords, including the annual property registration form and a self-inspection checklist. He also told attendees that annual property inspections have restarted after a long hiatus.

“For the past couple of years due to COVID, most of the inspectors with the city have focused on complaint-based issues only, but the scheduling of routine inspections has resumed,” DeVon said. “Scheduling will be coordinated directly with you, not your tenant, just be aware of that.”

Jon Raffensperger from the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing went into detail on laws around rentals that landlords should be aware of, particularly the Evanston residential landlord and tenant ordinance. He explained that the city’s ordinance supersedes Cook County’s, and highlighted areas where it differs from other local and state laws.

One fundamental difference, Raffensperger explained, is that the ordinance applies to every person renting residential property to another person, unlike many neighboring communities that have exceptions.

“That is different than the Cook County ordinance and the Chicago ordinance, which have kind of broad exceptions for what people refer to as ‘small landlords,’ who live in the property and have only a small number of units,” Raffensperger said. “The only exclusions from the Evanston ordinance are for certain living situations that are not really what you’d think of as landlord-tenant: medical facilities, nursing homes, colleges, hotels and motels, things of that nature.”

Also at the event, Taft West from the Chicago Community Loan Fund told the audience some ways to avoid issues before they happen. He advised landlords to intentionally cultivate a positive relationship with their tenants, as well as fill in any knowledge gaps they may have.

“I spent several years being the answerer for the City of Chicago’s landlord hotline,” West said. “And I can tell you, those several thousand calls a year I got, there’s a lot of misinformation and lack of education.”

Alex Harrison reports on local government, public safety, developments, town-gown relations and more for the RoundTable. He graduated from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism in June...