A PROACTIVE rental occupancy health and safety inspection PROGRAM is desperately needed in Quincy, Illinois TO ADDRESS substandard housing and the victimization of women, children and the elderly.
Hundreds of communities in Illinois have such inspection ordinances in place, yet our city doesn't. This page contains the ongoing results of interviews and photographs detailing how far too many of our neighbors are forced to live as they try to deal with landlords who’s properties are falling apart, pest infested, and dangerous to live in.
The following examples are only a snapshot of a greater problem. Please contact us by email if you are interested in joining us in promoting a city ordinance to address demeaning and dangerous living conditions in our "GEM" city.
We are adding properties to this page as we find them. If you have any knowledge of anyone struggling with similar conditions, or would like to support an inspection ordinance, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
ADVANTAGES OF PROACTIVE RENTAL INSPECTION (PRI) PROGRAMS
In many instances, PRI programs may be more effective than complaint-based programsin ensuring safe and healthy housing, preserving housing stock, protecting vulnerable tenants, and maintaining neighborhood property values.
PRI Programs Preserve Safe and Healthy Rental Housing
By relieving tenants of the burden of having to force reticent landlords to make needed repairs, systematic inspections can help ensure that a locality’s rental housing stock is maintained and that residents live in healthy conditions. Between the establishment of Los Angeles’s Systematic Code Enforcement Program (SCEP) in 1998 and 2005, “more than 90 percent of the city’s multifamily housing stock [was] inspected and more than one and half million habitability violations [were] corrected. The result [was] an estimated $1.3 billion re-investment by owners in the city’s existing housing stock.”
For example, between 2008 and 2013, under Sacramento’s Rental Housing Inspection Program, housing and dangerous building cases were reduced by 22 percent. According to a study of PRI programs in five North Carolina cities, the City of Greensboro alone brought more than 8,700 rental properties up to minimum standards in four yearsunder its proactive rental inspection program (RUCO). In addition, by ensuring that landlords are aware of poor conditions before they worsen, systematic code enforcement encourages preventative maintenance, which is more cost effective than deferred maintenance, and thereby helps landlords to maintain their properties.
Here's more information about proactive rental inspection programs, including advantages and challenges, provided by Maggie Strong with “Quincy Next.” (click on the link):
PRI Programs Help Protect the Most Vulnerable Tenants
Often, the most vulnerable tenants don’t complain. Some tenants are unaware that they have a right to safe and habitable housing. They may not know about existing tenant protections or code enforcement programs. Or they may have language barriers or disabilities that make it difficult to navigate the code enforcement system. Many tenants may be afraid to complain about their housing for fear of increased rent or landlord retaliation (such as eviction). Residents may be undocumented or have limited income that hampers their ability to move.
As a result of these barriers, the housing inhabited by the most vulnerable populations, which is frequently the worst housing, is often the most likely to fall through the cracks of a complaint-based code enforcement system. In 2009, Linda Argo, the Director of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) for the District of Columbia, testified before D.C. City Council about the need for their proactive rental inspection program. She explained, “it's quite clear that a complaint-based system is no longer sufficient if we want to maintain safe housing conditions for all residents, especially our most vulnerable – the poor, the elderly, the non-English speakers.” She noted that “[f]or the vast majority of properties named in the slumlord lawsuits [initiated by the Attorney General], DCRA had not received any recent complaints from residents of those buildings. And for the worst of the properties, we never received a single complaint.”
PRI Programs May Preserve Neighborhood Property Values (and a Locality’s Property Tax Base)
One of the lessons localities have drawn from the foreclosure crisis is that it is crucial to prevent concentration of blighted properties, in part because poorly maintained, substandard housing can have a negative effect on neighboring property values. By addressing housing conditions proactively, and by quickly identifying and targeting exterior substandard conditions alongside interior code violations, proactive rental inspection programs can ensure that properties don’t become blighted, thereby preserving property values. From a financial standpoint, this benefits landlords and homeowners. Maintaining neighborhood property values also benefits the entire locality because it preserves the local tax base.
Quincy Fire Department Deputy Chief of Operations Supports A Proactive Rental Inspection Program
The Eviction of Yvette:
Yvette says she has complained to her various landlords for years about issues with her apartment, to no avail. “The landlord now, when I called the building inspector to come out, they told me they're going to get a fine, they're going to get a letter in the mail. The same day that he came out is the same day I got my eviction notice. I don't know if that has anything to do with each other, which I think it does.”
Yvette Tells What Happened:
“The landlord got ahold of me saying that they had a $1,000 water bill, and they were trying to figure out what happened, so they want to come around to everybody's apartment, and put in some screws or whatever to tighten up the sinks, the toilet, or whatever. I told him that my water had drained out of my toilet. So he came the next day to fix my toilet. When I left, I assumed that it was fixed. When I came back home, like two hours later, they had broke into my apartment saying that there was feces going downstairs in the apartment downstairs, so they had to break into my apartment, and they were going to come and fix my toilet and my door the next day. They left a note on the door, saying that they would be back the next day to fix my door and my toilet, and it's still on the door. I left it on the door. They left a note on the door saying they were going to fix my door and my toilet the next day. They never did.
When they came in, and broke into my apartment, I had my rent money in a container on my table. When I came home my money was gone, my door was broken, and my toilet was still not fixed. When I contacted the landlord, they said they didn't know what I was talking about, so I called the police, and made a theft report because my money is stolen. It's my rent money. The door to my apartment, I only have one door to my apartment, and they took the lock off of it to break into my apartment to stop the feces from the leaking toilet that (they caused.) They never came back to fix my door, so I went and paid somebody to fix my door.
I paid $50 to get my door fixed. It is fixed because I paid to get it fixed, but my toilet is still broke, and they have not contacted me at all. I've lived in this apartment for 10 years, and I've been here through meth busts, aggravated batteries, murder, a suicide, a natural death. This is constantly chaos but this is the only place that I can really afford to live. I mind my own business. Long as the stuff around me doesn't pertain to me, I leave it at that.
I have called the police several times to ask for some help about this building. The window has been broke for 10 years. I've had five different slumlords, and they've pushed it off to the next one. Somebody else owns it saying that this is what they're going to do, and it never got done, so I have to put a big sheet of plastic on the window for the wintertime so I don't freeze. It's like 15 by 25. The window has been broke in like five different places, and there's wind always coming through it at all times.
Literally, I'm going to freeze if they don't fix the window this winter, and I asked them that. They're not going to so I'm going to have to get another piece of plastic to put on it so I'm not froze this winter. I have a pallet on the floor. I ride the city bus, and I got bed bugs so I no longer have a bed. I threw my bed away. This predicament, it's got me really in a jam because I planned on getting a bed before it got cold outside, and now I'm going to get evicted. My rent money got stolen, and the bed is not a possibility right now. But how can I pay my rent if my money was stolen when you all broke into my house?
When they (current landlords) first was looking at the building through the bank loan, I asked him about my window. They looked at it, whatever and he said, "Well, I'll be able to do it." It's been 13 months, and my window's still not fixed. They also have a laundromat downstairs that nobody can use, and it works. That makes no sense, and I have a whole pile of clothes. I have no way to get to the laundromat. I have no car. I have no transport other than the bus, and I work seven days a week, so I wash my clothes out in the bathtub.
About the eviction notice, it was very rude. They've said they want me out, and they gave me a five-day notice. I said, "For what?" She said, "Because you didn't pay your rent," and I said, "Because you all stole it." "Well, we're going to court." We're going to go to court then because I'm not leaving. I haven't done anything. I pay my bills, and I don't understand this. This is not right. This is all I can afford. I live in Quincy for 30 years by myself with my children, and now I'm here by myself.
This is all I can afford, but I do pay my bills, and I'm not leaving. We can go to court. Tenants should have rights too. Because I've went places to see about this eviction notice, and nobody would help me. That's not right because I haven't done anything wrong, but there should be somebody to protect me. For the tenants to have their own laws, and this is not right. The only laws is for the landlords. How is that right? We're the tenants, and we're ... As for the ones that are paying their bills, I need some help.
I went to the circuit clerk's office to ask, "What could I do about this? Can I get a court date? Can I talk to the judge? Am I going to be able to talk to the judge because this is not right." They tell me, "No. You just have to wait until the sheriff's department is gives you your eviction notice, and you get a court date."
Pastor Tony Metz has a few words to say about poverty and homelessness in Quincy.
Video: Tony Metz, Pastor of Luther Memorial Church in Quincy, speaks about the proposed city rental occupancy minimum health and safety standards inspection program designed to protect vulnerable victims and combat neighborhood blight. The horrific living conditions I’ve seen in Quincy, during the past 2 years is widespread and detrimental to basic human dignity. Our director of city planning and development wrote an ordinance draft last year to combat the problem, but there isn’t enough support from the city council to bring it to the table. Please join us in supporting change. For more information, please send your contact information to: email@example.com Visit the website at quincyilpovertyproject.org Follow us on Facebook: #quincyilpovertyproject Thank you.
This renter, who is Afraid of retaliation from her landlord for speaking to the Quincy Illinois Poverty Project, works two jobs, roughly 16 hours a day, to make ends meet. She pays $775 a month in rent, which includes electric, trash, and water. She is a single parent raising two teenage children. She has lived in this dwelling for 18 months. She says her landlord promised the repairs would be made, but he hasn't done the repairs.
She says, after repeated attempts to get her landlord to do the promised work, she has given up on getting any results. The renter says she would move, but it's difficult to save enough money to provide a deposit and first and last month's rent on a different place.
Photograph details: Ceiling leak in living room, living room ceiling at risk of falling in, bucket in use to capture rain water leaking from ceiling, large hole patching job not completed, no closet doors, although renter says landlord promised doors. No ceiling above the closet. The hole goes directly to the attic crawl space, which haunts renter, because she constantly fears her cats may get lost in the attic. Large sheet rock panel that fell, yet the landlord hasn't repaired it. Shower curtain rods won't remain in place. Extension cords all over the kitchen floor to reach an outlet that works without tripping a breaker due to electrical overload. Where the living room walls meet the ceiling, poor repairs. Overview of living room. Leak in a bedroom. No closet doors her, although renters says landlord promised doors. More ceiling leaking issues. Portable AC unit. Renter says landlord says it is all that is required to cool the 3 bedroom apartment. Renter says the unit only cools one bedroom. AC unit exhaust hose threaded out of renter's daughter's bedroom. Extension cords strung across the apartment because many of the existing outlets won’t handle the proper electrical load, which is a classic fire hazard.
"It's got me to where I'm scared, I'm frightened, I'm overwhelmed. I'm scared for my kids. Its not safe anymore."
Wendy has been struggling to keep her family safe, while living in a duplex that's dangerously in disrepair. Despite repeated requests for years, her landlord hasn't made the substantial repairs to the duplex. Wendy says 6 months ago she began telling the landlord about the dangerous upstairs floor. "It's been about six months and now every month I would tell him, or every day I would text him. I'd tell him about that floor is getting weaker and weaker. The board keeps coming up. Every time you step on it, it's gonna go through. And tonight, my second oldest daughter, Courtney was helping me try to get a mattress downstairs. She stepped on that one board. It flew her right to the vent and her leg went right through the floor into the next floor below, and that is exactly where me and my 10-year-old and my three-year-old grandson, he'll hop in bed with me and he'll sleep there. So, it could have happened when we were sleeping.".
The photographs above detail some of the major repair issues Wendy says her landlord hasn’t addressed in the nearly 2 years he has owned the property. The Quincy Illinois Poverty Project has documented Wendy’s situation for more than a year and a half.
"Nothing's getting done, and you just keep telling them and keep telling them and they just put it off. All they want is the rent. They don't wanna be there for their tenants. And then they laughed. They don't care. They just asked if we had somewhere to go. They didn't even wanna put us nowhere. I asked them if they could put us up in a hotel. No, just out of the room. That's all he says "Stay out of this room." See Wendy’s background story in “The Stories” drop down menu under the main navigation directory at the top of the page.
Terrorized by his landlord’s son, Walter lives in the yard of the house in Quincy, he rents for $400 a month. The rental house is supposed to have electricity and heat, but the landlord’s son destroyed the meter box and never replaced it as promised. There are far too many people like Walter being victimized by criminal-minded landlords in Quincy. See Walters story in “The Stories” drop down menu in the navigation directory at the top of the page.
This is the condition of a rental property a local Quincy, “reputable” real estate company tried to pass off to a customer. The customer complained, asking for her money to be refunded. The realtor refused to refund the deposits and first months rent, even though the woman didn’t move into this horrific mess.
The woman enlisted the help of her mother, who finally threatened to disclose the name of the realtor company and these photos on social media. Only after 3 weeks of asking and finally threatening, did she get her money back. This is another example of the issues far too many people are experiencing in Quincy. We desperately need a proactive rental occupancy inspection program to protect citizens, especially the poor and elderly from victimization.