Riverside has struggled for years to stay on top of problem multifamily rental properties, where tenants complain – mostly offline because they fear the consequences of going public and embarrassing their landlords – about substandard building and apartment maintenance, pest infestations, spotty hot water service and safety hazards.
There have been some repeat offenders where the village spends months chasing landlords through the court system to rectify problems, a drain both of staff time and village resources.
Despite the village’s past efforts, the problems persist. Earlier this year, the danger to tenants of some buildings came into full view when the heating plant failed at the Tower Apartments and a slow response from the owners and building management had tenants without reliable heat for more than a week.
The village, seeking to force the ownership to act quickly, sought an injunction in circuit court that allowed inspectors to get inside the building, including individual apartments, to see just what condition tenant’s lived in.
Riverside residents, meanwhile, wonder why the village can’t do more to crack down on landlords before a big problem occurs. The reason is pretty elementary, however. The buildings are private property and small municipalities like Riverside, a non-home rule community, have few tools to require landlords to open up their buildings for regular inspections.
Elected officials hope that a new ordinance, which would create a registry of all rental properties in the village, will help head off incidents like February’s boiler failure at the Tower Apartments.
The buildings would need to have their registrations renewed annually and owners would have to open up the buildings and individual units to inspection every three years or when tenancy turns over.
There is still some fine-tuning that needs to be done to make this process work for staff and not be excessively onerous for building owners, but the village must do more to ensure the comfort and safety Riverside residents who rent apartments or single-family homes.
It’s a population that seems marginalized in a village where well-off residents point with pride to historic homes and Riverside’s natural beauty. And, it is about time village government has taken active steps to advocate for them actively by engaging building owners and management to maintain those properties.
We’ll see just how cooperative some building owners will be and how proactive they’ll be in reporting tenant turnover, but the village needs to hold problem landlords to account. Perhaps this new registry will help the village put more teeth into their code enforcement efforts.
Sports is back
For the first time since March 2020, there’s a “Sports” flag atop one of the Landmark’s pages, and we couldn’t be happier.
The past year shifted priorities both here and in schools, and the uncertainly of high school athletics prompted us to pause regular sports coverage on a weekly basis.
The clouds are beginning to part, however, and from here through the end of the current school year we will endeavor to bring you local high school sports news and features.
It’s time to “play ball” once again. Thanks for your patience.