A recent guest of mine in from out of town commented to me on the absence of trailer parks in the city. This remark brought to the forefront a topic that I’ve been meaning to discuss for some time.
Manufactured housing. Modular housing. Container homes. Mobile homes. They all have assorted differences but they have two things in common. The first is that they are constructed in factories somewhere other than the land they’re intended to occupy. The other is that they are very, very scarce on the ground in Chicago. In any other city a blog about rental housing would spend a whole lot of time talking about mobile home parks but we’ve barely touched on them at all because there’s really no overlap between mobile home renters and Chicago renters.
There is one mobile home park in Chicago. It’s located at 4000 E. 134th Street on the far south side smack up against the border of Indiana and it’s called Harbor Point Estates. There are plenty in the neighboring suburbs, though. In fact, one of the worst airplane crashes in Chicago history occurred in 1979 when a DC-10 taking off from O’Hare landed on a trailer park in Des Plaines, just a few miles from the airport.
The simple reason behind the absence of trailer parks in Chicago is something called “highest and best land use.” The more complicated reason is also “highest and best land use.” So of course we must explain things in more detail. Continue reading Why Are There No Mobile Home Parks in Chicago?
“You do not need to be a lawyer to read the law, but you do need someone experienced to help you exercise your rights under the law.”
– Illinois Tenants Union, tenant.org
“Being a landlord in the city of Chicago is next to impossible,” he said. “A landlord has basically no rights.”
– Thomas D’Aprile, one of Chicago’s 50 “problem landlords” in the Chicago Tribune.
“IL is a state where we have people known as “professional tenants”: they pay first and last month’s rent, and never pay again. It can take two years or more to get them out under IL law.”
– David Dachtera, Joliet Landlord, Biggerpockets.com
“You are definitely correct that the city of Chicago is more pro-tenant. There are several near suburbs that I represent investors in buying that are much more easy on the landlords. The CLTO is ridiculous and gives tenants any chance they can to screw the landlords. I would suggest a suburb depending on what kind of areas you are looking for.”
– David Hermiz, Chicago-area landlord and Mortgage Banker, Trulia.com
“Is the current CRLTO too strong? Is it too heavy handed? Is it unfair to landlords? Yes. Yes. Yes.”
– Chicago attorney Richard Magnone, in his Chicago Eviction blog for landlords.
We’ve spent the past two weeks talking about how the Chicago Residential Landlord-Tenant Ordinance came to be, but those events happened thirty years ago. I would be remiss to not spend some time discussing what has happened with tenant rights in Chicago since 1986. Unfortunately, I can pretty much cover all of it in this one final chapter.
Since the ordinance went into effect it has been amended only six times. Over half of those changes have focused on security deposits, fines and fees. The few tenant rights groups that remain have changed from civil rights crusaders leading mass protests and riots to staid legal advisers. Looking in retrospect at the impact of the CRLTO from thirty years on, it’s apparent that the main beneficiaries of the CRLTO were not landlords nor tenants, but lawyers. Continue reading From Rights to Revenge (1986-2016) A History of Renters’ Rights in Chicago, Part V
“More than 10 years have passed since Washington’s stem-winding first inaugural address, in which he warned incoming aldermen that ‘business as usual’ would no longer be accepted in City Hall. That declaration proved to be the opening shot of what Chicago comedian Aaron Freeman would christen ‘Council Wars.’ Over the next several years, a majority bloc of 29 white aldermen would dig their heels in and put city government on pause.
Within moments of the inaugural address, Ald. Bernard Stone was telling the press portentously: ‘That was a unifying speech. I think we’re all united now. Maybe not the way he wanted, though.'”
– Jeff Lyon for the Chicago Tribune Magazine, ‘Council Wars: The Battle for City Hall,’ October 31, 1993
Thus far we’ve covered the early history of the tenant rights movement. We learned about the events that led to the drafting of the Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Agreement (URLTA), a document that was offered as a blueprint for landlord-tenant laws nationwide. We saw how the powerful real estate lobby prevented the Illinois general assembly from enacting URLTA and almost all other laws that might have protected renters, leading to Evanston’s creation of their own city-specific Landlord Tenant Ordinance in 1975. At long last we’re able to look at the creation of the infamous, unique and peculiar Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (CRLTO). Continue reading Highly Questionable if Not Substantially Inadvisable (1978-1986) A History of Renters’ Rights in Chicago, Part IV
“Secession from Illinois and the creation of a ‘State of Chicago’ to embrace all of Cook and perhaps other nearby counties which are denied legislative representation in proportion to their population by downstate districts, is approved in the resolution unanimously adopted by the city council yesterday.
The resolution, offered by Ald. John Toman (23rd) directs Corporation Counsel Francis X. Busch to prepare an outline of the proper legal procedure to the effect of the separation for submission to the aldermen at their next meeting.”
– “Council Urges Chicago Form Distinct State,” Chicago Tribune, Jun 25 1925.
When we last left off on Friday, it was 1972. The Chicago Freedom Movement and the Tenant Movement had marched, rioted and fought their way into the spotlight and were starting to get attention. Judge Skelly Wright of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia had ruled that apartments were to be governed by the principles of modern contract law rather than the centuries old tenets of English property law. The National Conference of Commissioners of Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) had delivered a draft of a landlord-tenant act that Illinois could have used as a starting point for creating its own body of laws, or even adopted outright without alteration. The sample act was called the Uniform Residential Landlord-Tenant Act, or URLTA for short.
The future of tenants’ rights in Chicago was laid firmly at the feet of the Illinois General Assembly. This was, in retrospect, a very bad move. Continue reading The Sovereign State of Chicago (1972-1981) A History of Renters’ Rights in Chicago, Part III
“As the judge pronounced the sentence, which court officials said represented the first time in their memory that a landlord has been ordered jailed on housing code violation charges, a cheer went up from more than 50 Clifton Terrace tenants in the room.
Brown, who is yet to be tried for another 1200 violations at Clifton Terrace cited by housing inspectors, was visibly stunned by the sentence.
As he was led away to the court’s basement cellblock, the landlord, his hands visibly shaking, did not appear to be the defendant who moments before had told the Judge from the witness box that the District government was responsible for the lack of heat at Clifton Terrace.
After remaining in the cell block for about 45 minutes, Brown’s attorney, George E. C. Hayes, filed notice of appeal in the case and the landlord was released after posting $2000 bond.”
– Carl Bernstein, “Landlord Given Jail Term,” Washington Post, 1967.
On Monday we started a series on the history of the Chicago Residential Landlord-Tenant Ordinance. We covered an enormous span of time from medieval England to the early civil rights movement in the United States of the 1960s. We were introduced to the many issues that faced renters in the early 20th century and the methods used by the first tenants’ rights pioneers to try and fight back.
When we left off, it was 1963 and Jesse Gray’s rent strikes in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City were getting attention through violence, the civil rights act was up for debate in US Congress, and Chicago had just passed its first fair housing ordinance.
Over the next decade, the battle for tenants’ rights would be joined on three fronts – in the White House, the courts and the streets. Continue reading The Three-Front War for URLTA (1964-1972) A History of Renters’ Rights in Chicago, Part II