QUINCY — Existing housing resources were the area of focus for the Residential Rental Property Registration Committee’s second of at least four meetings on Wednesday to evaluate ways to provide more accountability to area landlords.
The committee is in the middle of evaluating and ordinance requiring the owner of a residential rental property in Quincy to register their name, direct mailing address, direct contact name, telephone number and email address. A self-certification program also would be established, which would be subject to an annual audit where up to 5% of residential rental property in the city could be inspected.
Quincy Mayor Mike Troup said the city needs a mechanism to enforce minimum housing standards.
“When the other communities in our region, in Hannibal (and) in Keokuk, have more enforcement with their rental housing than we do, I don’t think that’s anything that we should be proud of,” Troup said.
Jeremy Wingerter, executive director of the United Way of Adams County, said current assets available to tenants included a help line that would connect residents to social service agencies across Quincy and Adams County.
If an individual isn’t served through the helpline, the United Way also has a committee called “Unmet Needs,” which will send residents’ applications to a group of community volunteers who will review the cases and supplement money to help fulfill the need local social service groups couldn’t.
“That is provided once a year for an individual and it’s meant to keep them moving forward (and) that they don’t come back and see us ever again,” Wingerter said.
Quincy Township Supervisor Cindy Brink said the General Assistance Program, which is funded through property tax dollars, also assists residents with rent, utilities, mortgage, food or medical expenses.
Jeremy Oshner, executive director of the Two Rivers Regional Council of Public Officials, said there also was an Illinois Rental Payment Program from the Illinois Housing Development Authority in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This program, which closed its application window this past weekend, offered rental assistance to landlords and tenants for 15 months.
Although several attendees of Wednesday’s meeting said they supported the ordinance, some committee members were not sold.
Alderman Parker Freiburg, R-3, said the ordinance would not supersede a rental agreement or lease, which means that if a lease states that a tenant is responsible for housing standards and a complaint is filed, there is nothing that can be done because the lease is the controlling document.
Instead, Freiburg proposed a number of alternatives to the ordinance to protect tenants. He first proposed improving the accessibility of the city’s current housing complaint form by creating an online form that could be filled out.
Freiburg also recommended a tenant protection ordinance that would protect tenants from eviction during an active investigation.
“In my opinion, this would give tenants more peace of mind in pursuing to file a housing complaint,” Freiburg said. “That’s why we’ve only seen 15 a year on average.”
The committee’s next meeting will be Aug. 4 at 4:30 p.m. at Quincy City Hall. Tentative agenda items will be the impact of mental health on rental opportunities, the eviction process and how other communities currently address rental housing.