BELLEVILLE — Members of a mayoral committee have completed their review of the proposed crime-free housing ordinance.
The eight-member task force has turned over its recommendations on how to address criminal activity in rental properties to Mayor Mark Eckert.
Over the next month, Eckert, Police Chief Bill Clay and City Attorney Mike Flynn will review the task force's draft plan.
"When we get this up and running it should really cut down on problems for landlords and really make things better for renters who are not causing problems," said Ward 1 Alderman Ken Kinsella, chairman of the task force.
The task force's key recommendations include:
* Tenants must sign a crime-free lease addendum acknowledging that any criminal activity is grounds for immediate termination of the lease.
* Owners, landlords and managing agents must have a crime-free housing certificate, which they earn after completing a seminar.
* Mandatory U.S. comprehensive criminal checks for tenants 18 years and older. The search must go back at least seven years for all known addresses.
* A rental property registration form for each unit and a fee of $25 per unit per year. The money will go toward operating the crime-free housing program -- namely, hiring personnel to manage the program.
* Creation of rental incident forms to keep landlords and property owners in the loop about incidents that occur involving their tenants. Police officers who respond to calls at rental units will document each incident.
The task force consists of Kinsella and Ward 4 Alderman Dean Hardt; landlords Kevin Bouse, John Masur and Stan Bratzke; Linda Havlin, of the nonprofit West End Redevelopment Corp.; Dan Nollman, a resident from the east end; and Tricia Tialdo, a real estate agent who also serves on the city's health and housing committee.
The task force spent the past five months discussing a crime-free housing ordinance that would work for the city of Belleville.
The task force worked off of a plan submitted by Clay, who gathered ideas from metro-east cities that already have crime-free housing programs.
The task force spoke extensively on whether to require background checks.
In previous meetings, Masur said such screens might deter tenants who break the law from renting in Belleville and make landlords aware whenever they rent to someone with a criminal history.
Bratzke has said he feels the proposed fee structure and mandatory background checks create an unfair intrusion on residents. He questioned whether checks would be done on guests such as visiting family members; the task force agreed checks are not required for temporary visitors.
Masur said the money generated from the ordinance should only go towards running the program. Bratzke said the fees from renters should not go towards expenses that should be paid for by residents citywide.
The city has an estimated 8,000 rental units, which means the annual fees would generate about $200,000.
Kinsella said the task force initially thought the money would go into the general fund before members realized the program would need additional staff to be successful.
"We're talking an awful lot of paperwork to get this thing going," Kinsella said. "What we would like is have it be paperless so officer has information on scene and make it as streamlined as possible so the Housing Department and landlords will have it, too."
Kinsella said it's important to remember that the new program is meant to better Belleville, not to harass landlords or renters.
Bouse has said the ordinance is not focused on heavy penalties because the goal is to improve communication.
When an officer responds to a rental issue at 2 a.m., for example, the officer should be thinking about what information needs to be collected so that landlords and city officials can follow up with the incident the next day, Bouse said.
Kinsella said task force members hope the city will help the program by providing a vehicle for the program managers or help pay for computer software upgrades that would benefit the program as well as the city's day-to-day operations.
The task force will next meet on Feb. 27 at City Hall to discuss the feedback from city officials.
Residents will get a chance to provide feedback in public meetings when the proposal goes before the City Council.
Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/BNDBelleville.