Homewood officials are exploring the possibility of establishing a new program to promote better property care for single-family rental homes.
The village is hosting a meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 20, at Village Hall, 2020 Chestnut Road, to offer information to residents and gather input about how to shape the program.
For residents who are interested in the conversation but are unable to attend, the village is providing a web form for providing ideas and questions.
The proposal to develop the program was discussed at the Board of Trustees meeting on July 26. Village Manager Jim Marino, Fire Chief and Building Department Manager Bob Grabowski and Village Attorney Chris Cummings explained the reasons for such a program and the options the village might consider.
Grabowski described the current system, which is complaint-driven and depends on exterior observations of safety violations and maintenance problems.
"We have 6,000 homes. In 2015, we wrote over 800 violations," he said. "Out of those violations, between 20 and 25 percent of them went to rental homes even though they are only 5 percent of the total housing stock. There is an issue there that we can see."
Mayor Richard Hofeld said his experience supports that statistic, noting that during his weekly Meet the Mayor sessions at Village Hall, residents who stop by very often complain about maintenance problems in their neighborhoods.
"I receive more concerns about property maintenance than anything else," he said. "They are justified. Everyone wants to live in a very good neighborhood. We believe in property owners' rights, but we also believe in property owners' responsibilities."
Cummings told the board that as a non-home rule municipality, Homewood would have limits to what it can implement, but he added that all municipalities are authorized to "define, prevent and abate nuisances," and that's what the new program would seek to do.
"It can't just be something that bugs you," he said. "It's got to be something that puts the public at peril."
But he noted that maintenance problems can present public hazards for police and fire personnel, and they can drive down property values in the neighborhood.
Marino said the staff was looking for direction, and trustees expressed cautious support for developing a more rigorous approach than the current system, with several trustees saying they would like to see cost estimates of such a program.
Grabowski said a more robust program would involve adding inspectors and clerical staff.
Marino also said the village wants to work with tenants and landlords as the program is developed to make sure community ideas and concerns are accounted for.
He said the program staff currently envisions would depend on voluntary cooperation but would include incentives to help persuade landlords to participate. He and Grabowski said the village's focus on compliance would continue.
The village will also host a landlord-specific meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, at Village Hall.