Sharon Woods Harris
Romans has been a landlord for 15 years, with 20 properties in Tazewell and Peoria counties. He said the damage to his properties ranges from tenants stealing all of the light bulbs to stealing the water heater, refrigerator and stove.
That doesn’t include the physical damage to the property. Romans said some tenants leave the property filthy. He said prior to this landlords had little knowledge of when police are called to their property. It is hoped, by landlords and police alike, that the city’s new Crime Free Multi-Housing Program will help landlords rid themselves of bad tenants who are repeat criminal offenders — requiring police to respond to the property repeatedly.
Roman attended a seminar conducted by the Pekin Police Department Monday morning, where he learned about resources, some of which were already familiar to him, to screen tenants.
“I think working with the Police Department — that the officer here, Officer May (Pulliam), is going to be like a liaison and help us out and provide us with information about what’s going on,” said Romans. “A landlord can’t be on the scene all the time, and a lot of times we don’t know what’s going on (at our property) with the interactions of the neighbors or if the police are called. She’ll provide that for us. There’s a lot of information she gave to us — the different websites where we can access to check backgrounds and things of that nature.”
Romans already checks Judici.com, which has information on all court cases and charges filed in Tazewell County, and peoriacounty.org, which provides the same information for Peoria County. His wife also does an Internet search of a potential tenant’s name and checks Facebook. He said the Pekin Code Enforcement Office is good about letting him know when there are problems.
“If you go to somebody’s Facebook page and it shows somebody having a big beer party in the front yard, and it seems like a common occurrence, you might want to take note of that,” said Romans.
Pulliam said she hopes to have software available by Jan. 1 that will notify landlords of every police call to their property. Landlords learned at the seminar that the Police Department will notify them every time officers are called to their property. They will also work with the landlord to help make sure the property is crime free. Landlords who do not work with the program could face penalties, as a last resort, said Pulliam. She said that the Police Department wants to work with landlords to exhaust every option to end the criminal activity.Pekin has 850 to 900 landlords, who have approximately 1,600 rental units. The only property exempt from the new program is property rented to immediate family members. There have been 45 to 50 landlords at each class. In the class Monday, landlords asked a lot of questions and seemed eager to see what the city had to offer.
Landlords have to register with the city by Oct. 15. The last seminars will be offered in the third week of November. Pulliam said that if a landlord has not received a letter about the registration and classes, they need to call the Police Department at 478-5210 or 478-5300, or go to the Police Department to get a registration form. Registration is $10, which pays for the class and registration. Landlords may provide their email addresses on their forms and can allow them to be shared with other landlords so they can share information about tenants. Some of the landlords at the seminars are hoping to form a group as well.
The program advocates a crime free lease agreement with the tenant which states he will abide by certain rules. Pulliam said that often it is a visitor to a property that causes problems. The landlord can ban that person from the property.
Repeat offenders are the target of the ordinance — people who are the subject of police calls again and again.
“This is not intended for people who have made a mistake,” said Pulliam. She said that tenants are not yet aware that the Police Department is now sharing information with landlords about police calls to the property.
The program teaches landlords about using the Freedom of Information Act to get information about tenants from police and courts, about the eviction process, how to write a lease that protects them and the need to see an attorney for some issues, among many other things
Romans said that people assume landlords have a lot of money. He said people need to realize that landlords sometimes get a bad rap and end up losing money.
“It’s not all wine and roses,” he said.