The village of Schaumburg, IL (pop. 75,000), a northwest suburb
of Chicago, has dealt with rising crime and police calls for service in rental units. Residents and village officials were concerned and determined to find a solution. The solution: Crime-Free Multi-Housing program
It all came to a head when two-gang related drive by shootings and many incidents of drug sales occurred in 1992. All of these incidents happened at single rental units.
The village has experienced tremendous growth over the last decade and now has 18 apartment complexes located in the village and hundreds of individual rental units.
In 1998, the village adopted the city of Mesa, AZ’s Crime-Free Multi-Housing program (CFMHP) as a voluntary program for property owners. In addition, the Schaumburg Police Department assigned one officer from the Community Relations/Crime Prevention Unit to work with the CFMHP full-time.
"Many owners of small rental properties didn’t believe that they would get a "nightmare" tenant," said Crime-Free Multi-Housing Police Officer John Nebl. "They thought they knew how to choose tenants that were law-abiding citizens."
The CFMHP program included phase one, an 8-hour seminars on topics such as crime prevention, benefits of applicant screening, crime free lease addendums, evictions, and pro-active management techniques. Phase two was Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) certification, which reviews security requirements necessary for tenant’s safety. Phase three was for property managers to obtain full certification and to hold crime prevention meetings for tenants.
According to Nebl, "After a few years of operating the program, the village found that only a small number of single unit property owners were taking advantage of the CFMHP seminars. Additionally, police calls for service at single units remained a problem. Police staff noted that in order to run a single rental unit, the village required the owner to obtain a rental license. In light of the issues with single rental units, staff proposed the Residential Rental Ordinance to the Public Safety Committee.
In March of 2003, the Village Board adopted the Residential Rental Ordinance. Once the village enacted the ordinance in March 2003, the Finance Department provided the CFMH Officer with a list of all rental licenses. This allowed the CFMH Officer to notify all rental license holders of the new ordinance and its requirements. In return, the CFMH Officer notifies the Finance Department of all the rental addresses eligible for a rental license.
From January 01, 2004 on, ALL rental units, whether complexes or single units, were required to attend a CFMH seminar within three months of obtaining their rental license. Failure to attend the seminars and to complete the CFMHP would result in the revocation of the property owner’s rental license.
The success of this program hinges on the relationships that the CFMH Officer has developed with property managers and board members from many of the condominium and homeowners associations in the village. This has allowed the village to identify previously unlicensed single rental units. The CFMH Officer is then able to contact the owner and advise them of the ordinance and its requirements. In addition, these important relationships increased the active participation in the program and property owners’ desire to develop crime-free policies outside of what is required through the Residential Rental Ordinance.
"Since CFMHP was operational, the village has consistently experienced a 12 percent reduction in calls for police service to our 18 apartment complexes," said Nebl.
Statistics related to crime in single unit rentals were not tabulated prior to the ordinance. However, since the Village Board enacted the ordinance in 2003, 75 seminars have been held. This has provided training to more than 990 property owners and managers, which represent over 1300 individual rental units in the village.
Nebl said, "By providing training and support to all these rental properties, there is no question many problems have been avoided. Additionally, we have assisted with several evictions and non-renewals of tenants involved in criminal and nuisance activities. There have been no court challenges to our ordinance and there has not been a need to suspend any rental license."
The village spends approximately $4-5K a year on the program to provide materials to property owners, and conduct the proper training seminars. "The costs are minimal compared to the benefits that the community receives," said Nebl.
Lessons learned and application to other communities
Through the implementation of the ordinance and the CFMHP, the village has discovered that many property owners did not know the rights that they possessed. Many of the property owners failed to use a Crime-Free Lease Addendum that would have provided them with the right to evict tenants for criminal behavior. In addition, the village learned that in making the CFMHP mandatory, they were able to fully train all of the property owners in the village, as well as identify single unit renters who were not properly licensed.
With the support of the Village Board and the Police Chief, Schaumburg’s Crime-Free Multi-Housing Police Officer Nebl has conducted seminars all over the country talking with other communities about enacting a similar ordinance and Crime-Free Multi-Housing policy.
He has traveled to other communities in other states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Michigan to train other municipalities on CFMH practices. In addition, ten Illinois communities now have active CFMH programs. Nebl is currently working with other communities in the area to develop additional programs. Several communities have adopted or are considering adoption of ordinances modeled after the Schaumburg Residential Rental Ordinance.
For more information, you may contact Crime-Free Multi-Housing Police Officer John Nebl for the village of Schaumburg at 847.348.7276 or email JNebl@ci.schaumburg.il.us.