Many Illinois municipalities require some form of “Crime Free” lease addendum. (Here is a sample copy of the addendum provided by the Village of Palatine.) Such an addendum seeks to make it easier for a landlord to evict a tenant if the tenant or tenant’s guests engage in criminal acts.
A group, known as the “International Crime Free Association“, markets such a program to municipalities. Their program was developed in 1992 by the group’s founder, a former member of the Mesa Arizona Police Department. In its intended form, the program requires landlord training and mandates that landlords add a “crime free” addendum to their lease.
The municipalities requiring a crime free addendum have the best of intentions. They are looking out for the safety of their community. However, the addendum can create massive burdens for landlords. There are a number of criticisms of the “crime free” programs. First, they require a large investment of a landlord’s personal time. Many municipalities require landlords to attend training which can take up to 8 hours. Additionally, landlords are required to actually enforce the addendum. That is, they must evict tenants who engage in criminal activity. This is easier said than done. Proof problems abound in such cases. Landlords or their attorneys are required to become criminal prosecutors and must prove (albeit usually at a lesser standard of proof than a criminal conviction) that the tenant or tenant’s guest performed a criminal act. Getting testimony, records, documents, or lab reports related to criminal activity is not exactly easy and dragging a police officer into court for an eviction court can be a difficult proposition.
Recently, landlords and tenants have begun to challenge the validity of crime free style program. A district court judge recently struck down the “Crime Free” addendum in Cedar Rapids Iowa. I have not reviewed the case, but it appears from reports I have read that the challenge was based upon the Iowa constitution and certain Federal Constitutional issues. In other instances related to concerns about HUD evictions of innocent tenants (based on illegal activities of their guests), the validity of the ordinance was upheld. I’m not prepared to take any side on the validity of such laws in Illinois.
That said, a number of Illinois municipalities have enacted some form of a crime free addendum. Among them are Palatine, Bolingbrook, Schaumburg, Aurora, Mount Prospect, Elgin, Naperville, Wheeling, Oak Forest, Addison, Niles, Riverside, Westmont and Round Lake Beach, Addison, Rosemont, Wheeling, Carpentersville, and Des Plaines. In the coming weeks, I will explore this issue in more detail.
Illinois landlords are well advised to check with their local municipality to determine if a crime free addendum requirement exists, if any landlord certification or compliance is required, and if there are other ordinances governing the landlord tenant relationship in their town. No lease is complete without such research.