Confusion with respect to Chicago’s Recycling Ordinance

Does this law apply to “small” landlords?

Chicago recently amended its recycling ordinance, effective January 1, 2018, to fill in the gap between the City of Chicago’s “Blue Cart” recycling and the recycling for private multi-unit residential properties (big condos and rental units of 5 or more units).  The law includes a provision calling for “tenant education” in the form of informational flyers.  While the law APPEARS to be targeted toward those units that are 5 or more, there’s nothing in the law that “exempts” smaller buildings.  That leads to a question as to whether or not small building owners need to comply with the tenant education section of the law.

A review of the law yields the following:

Section 11-5-140 deals with “Education of Tenants”.  It says: “Each REFUSE COLLECTION CUSTOMER shall develop and implement an ongoing education program to educate all tenants, residents, and occupants…” and goes on to list the flyer requirement and any changes to the program.

Section 11-5-020 defines “REFUSE COLLECTION CUSTOMER” as “any person that (1) enters into or is required to enter into a contract with a private hauler for the provision by such private hauler of waste collection services or recycling collection services or both to the building or (2) OWNS OR LEASES ANY BUILDING OR OCCUPATIONAL UNIT WITHIN A BUILDING THAT IS SERVICED BY A PUBLIC HAULER.

Section 11-5-020 defines “PUBLIC HAULER” as “the Department of Streets and Sanitation of the City of Chicago”.

So, based upon its plain language, it seems that there’s an argument that part 2 of the refuse collection customer definition includes small landlords and so everyone is subject to the tenant education portion of 11-5-140.  I don’t see anything that says landlords with buildings of 1-4 are exempt and I am currently advising my own clients to comply with the law’s education requirements for their leases.  When this law was passed, the City of Chicago said that they would not enforce the law without giving a landlord a chance to get into compliance before issuing fines, but those words are just words and there’s no guarantee that such a policy (a) exists or (b) will remain in place if it does exist.  For now, smart landlords will “over-comply”.

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