ROMEOVILLE – Romeoville village and a landlord are in a legal dispute over code violations pertaining to a new crime-free housing ordinance.
The ordinance, designed to reduce crime in residential rental units, went into effect Jan. 1 and has drawn the ire of Vernon Coop, a landlord with two rental properties in the village.
Romeoville Police Sgt. Chris Burne, who’s part of the village’s crime-free housing program, said Coop and another landlord are the only two among more than 1,000 who’ve refused to come into compliance.
In March, Coop was cited for eight violations for properties at 419 Belmont Drive and 507 Glen Ave. under the village’s crime-free housing ordinance. He has contested them in court since.
Coop said his issue with the new code is that it requires a written lease agreement with tenants, which he was unwilling to do because he had been trying to evict tenants at the Belmont Drive property and had a verbal agreement for rent payment with tenants at the Glen Avenue property.
The village has cited Coop for ordinance violations over his rental properties in 2015 and 2012.
Coop said he’s since obtained a rental license for properties that are now empty and he’s trying to sell and that a representative of his attended the mandatory crime-free housing seminar. But he claims he’s facing a fine of up to $10,000 – although it could potentially be more – and the village is holding up the sale of his two properties.
“It’s just ridiculous. They’re playing hardball with us. They want 100 percent compliance with everyone in their city,” Coop said.
Burnes said the village has been trying to ensure Coop was in compliance with the new code since August, calling him and sending him letters repeatedly. The ordinance was adopted by the village board March 2016.
Instead of complying, Burnes said Coop told the village to take him to court. Coop said out of frustration with the crime-free housing ordinance, he told the village to sue him.
“If [Coop] would’ve made any attempt to come in compliance, we wouldn’t have taken him to court,” Burnes said.
Burnes said Coop hasn’t been fined and that, now that the matter has been taken to court, the fine amount would be up to the judge or the village’s prosecutor if found guilty.
According to the ordinance, violations can be subject to a minimum fine of $150 or a maximum of $750 for each violation and each day the violation continues, putting Coop’s fines in the potential hundreds of thousands. Burnes said the village’s prosecutor made an offer for a lower amount for Coop.
Coop’s case is scheduled for status May 22.
Burnes said the crime-free housing ordinance was needed for Romeoville because it has absentee landlords and slumlords. The ordinance forces landlords to have a vested interest in the community, he said.