You may not know it, but on the first Tuesday of every month we send out an email newsletter to a bunch of our friends and customers. Normally we do not duplicate content between the newsletter and the blog. However, given that the two audiences do not really overlap and that this month's newsletter dedicated a substantial amount of time to the new laws that went into effect in the state of Illinois and city of Chicago, we are reproducing that section of the newsletter for our article this week.
With the start of the new year many new laws have gone into effect at the federal, state and local level. Of particular interest to Chicago renters are the following:
New Tax Laws. Of particular concern for renters, especially low income renters, are new federal income regulations that are predicted to decrease the amount of available funds for charitable donations. While many charitable individuals make donations for personal reasons, there is no denying that their tax-deductible nature has been an incentive for many years. With more money going to taxes, fewer incentives to itemize deductions and more limits on charitable tax deductions, non-profits may struggle in the coming year. This includes service organizations that help low-income renters with many facets of daily life and in times of crisis.
Many landlords may have chosen to pay their property taxes early in order to claim the deductions on their 2017 tax returns. Doing so in what is normally a very slim time of year for landlords means there will be less available income for major repairs and fixes until the spring. Expect many landlords to scale back drastically on renovations, capital improvements and any fixes bigger than a patch job until April or so.
It will be interesting to see how landlords respond to the new tax laws, especially in relation to some of the stranger things they do for tax breaks on their rental income.
No Double Jeopardy for Civil Rights. The Illinois Human Rights act has been amended. If someone files a complaint with the Department of Human Rights, and also files suit in the state or federal court system, the Department of Human Rights can close the complaint without resolving it on their side. Previously, the Department of Human Rights had put these cases on hold pending completion of court trials. Housing discrimination complaints are often filed in this manner, so if you are in the process of dealing with housing discrimination bear this new law in mind.
Free Copies of Birth Certificates for Homeless & Parolees. Those identified by social service agencies, attorneys, schools or social workers as homeless will be permitted to obtain up to four copies of their birth certificate from the Department of Vital Records without charge each year. Those released from prison on parole or final discharge are allowed one free search per year.
Insurance Policies can be Emailed. The Illinois Insurance Act was amended to allow delivery of insurance policies by electronic methods, rather than in hard copy/paper form. This includes renters insurance, car insurance and health insurance. However, notice of policy cancellations due to unpaid premiums must be sent by mail at least 10 days before the policy is cancelled. Non-renewal notifications for any other cause must be sent at least 30 days before.
Restraining Orders Adjusted. Individuals who obtain restraining orders against others with whom they share a cell phone plan may obtain a court order to their provider to have the offending parties removed from the plan.
DCFS and Controlled Substances. Names of individuals who obtain prescription opioids from pharmacies can now be disclosed to the Department of Children and Family Services if pertinent to an investigation.
Policies for Homeless Minors Expanded. The laws governing youth transitional housing services (shelters for emancipated and homeless minors) have been drastically expanded and overhauled. If this applies to you, it's best to view all changes in full.
No More Forcible Entry & Detainer. All references to "Forcible Entry and Detainer" in the Housing code have been struck and replaced with the word "eviction."
Continuing Education and Restrictions on Leasing Agents. Leasing agents are now required to enroll in licensure classes within 60 days of starting work. A continuing education requirement has been added, with 6 hours required every two years. Leasing agents have been specifically banned from having anything to do with the sale of property. They cannot even get paid for referring you to a sales agent. Additional massive overhauls were made to state real estate licensing and education requirements. Review all changes here.
It's OK to Talk to Gang Members. Legislation that previously condemned individuals who had "contact with" members of street gangs has been amended to refer only to those who participate or further street gang-related activity.
Party Room Kitchens Not Subject to Inspection. Communal kitchens in private residential buildings have been excluded from regulation by local governments, provided that these kitchens are used only by the occupants ("lessees") and their guests. This means that all those party rooms in downtown skyscrapers are in the clear.
217 different laws went into effect for the state of Illinois on January 1. Above is only a selection that may be of interest to renters. The full list can be found here.
No new ordinances affecting renters went into effect on January 1 at the county level.
Substantial Changes to Home Business Licensing. A major overhaul to Business Licensing with some focus on home-based businesses has been slowly phasing in over the course of this year. The full extent of the changes were to occur by January 1, 2018. There have been too many changes to this ordinance to list in this newsletter. Review the full amendment here. (It's the PDF named "O2016-8687".)
New Electrical Code. The city has adopted the 2017 version of the national electrical code, with some adjustments. Several articles of the code are already in effect, three more came into effect with the start of the year.
Fines, definitions established for bullying and harassment. The city has criminalized bullying and harassment, implementing fines ranging from $100 to $500 for varying numbers of offenses.
Water Tax increase. Taxes on water usage have increased from $0.000295 to $0.00064 per gallon.
There is no easy way to link directly to all of the city's laws that went into effect on January 1. Chicago tends to implement its new laws shortly after they are passed instead of waiting for the new year. In order to find the list we used, visit Chicago Legistar and set up your search as shown in the image below.
We encourage each of you who live or work in Chicago to review these new laws in depth. Notify your friends, colleagues and family if you believe they will be affected.
It's also worth noting that Chicago's major elections occur in March. This year our March 20th primaries will prepare the November ballots for the US House of Representatives, the governor, state attorney general, state comptroller, state treasurer, state senators, state representatives, the county board, the county clerk, county treasurer, county sheriff (they handle the evictions), the county board of review, and a whole bunch of judges. If upon reviewing these new laws you find that you don't like what the incumbents have done over the past year, you know what to do.
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