Pekin's police chief heard some pointed questions and comments last week when he met with landlords to discuss a proposed law that all residential rental properties be licensed, with attached fees, and regularly inspected.

“Do we get to vote on it?” one landlord asked.

Without a valid reason, “You’ve got no business being on my property!” said another.

“It’s getting to the point where people are going to be (living) on the street, because we can’t afford to be in business,” said a third.

Dossey also heard support, and a few suggested changes, for a new Rental Registration Housing Code and revised Chronic Nuisance Ordinance that he and other city officials are crafting.  

He met with about 35 landlords on Sept. 14 at the Pekin Public Library, two days after a similar meeting. Dossey promised at least one more meeting before the matters go to the City Council later this year.

“We’re trying to change Pekin,” Dossey said, by improving its rental properties – as much as 60 percent of the city’s housing stock, he said – and reducing “nuisance calls” to both rental and owner-occupied units.

Rental inspections prompted by a city code, rather than complaints, “are a positive for the city, for the tenants and for the landlords,” including the large majority who keep their properties up to code and “livable,” Dossey said.

“I’ve seen it in actionm” Dossey said. “I’ve seen it work” in Hanover Park, the Chicago suburb where Dossey built his police career before Pekin hired him as police chief two years ago. “It’s turned that town around,” he said.

He acknowledged that, while still-undetermined rental unit license fees would be required from all landlords, the proposed code targets so-called slum landlords.

“Truth be told, there are landlords who need to be held accountable because they’ve let their properties go,” with sagging overall city property values as a result, Dossey said.

“It sounds to me,” a landlord said, “like we’re going to pay a fee for a few landlords who choose to be slumlords. They should be singled out.”

Dossey said he would research the idea of waiving license fees for landlords who register their units but imposing fines for those who don’t.

City Building Inspections Director John Lebegue told the audience the inspections plan would target about 20 percent of rental units each year. Multi-unit properties would be skipped the following year if their targeted units passed inspection.

Those inspections, he said, would focus on basic issues such as insect infestation, plumbing and sanitation, working windows and smoke/carbon monoxide detectors.

“My hope,” Dossey said, “is that the majority of us will say, ‘We can live with this. This is what Pekin needs.’”

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