BREAKING: City officials respond to ‘Brothel law’ allegations

Staff Report

The City of Evanston released two statements in response to The Daily’s article regarding the reemergence of the “brothel law” Monday afternoon.

The City also provided a list of 52 properties that are under investigation due to open building and/or overcrowding as of Sept. 28.

Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and Director of Community and Economic Development Steve Griffin both said in their statements that the City will not enforce the Three Unrelated Person rule until July 2012, unless a particular property risks the lives or safety of tenants. Judgments about whether overcrowding constitutes a safety concern are at the discretion of city officials.

The full texts of their statements are below:

Statement from Mayor Tisdahl Regarding Daily Northwestern Article on Three Unrelated Person Rule

Housing inspections save lives. That is the reason they are done and will continue to be done citywide. The City of Evanston has enforced housing standards, specifically concerning multiple occupancy and illegal alterations to residential units, regularly through the years and will continue to do so to protect the safety of occupants and neighborhood residents.

The city’s enforcement strategy to ensure community safety does not include the eviction of occupants. Rather, the city has a long history of working with landlords to resolve City code violations.

With that said, I attended a Northwestern University Off-campus Student Meeting between university and city staff on September 29, 2011 with the express intent of getting out in front of this issue. Proactively, I offered up a listing from our Community and Economic Development Department of various properties with ongoing and current enforcement issues for university staff to share with students. This listing should be used as a helpful tool for off campus students as they start signing leases for housing for 2012. In doing this, it is our intent to reinforce what we already do and that is to ensure the safety of all residents.

Additionally, I informed university staff at the meeting that it was not the intention of the city to enforce the Three Unrelated Person Rule until July of 2012.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl

City continues to keep its promise on enforcement of life safety issues for all residents – Steve Griffin, Community & Economic Development Director

The City of Evanston regularly administers its enforcement of zoning, building and fire codes for residential dwellings to ensure the life & safety of all residents in the City of Evanston.

Recent examples of the city’s enforcement actions in 2010 that serve to protect the life and safety of our residents include:

A single family home that includes eight occupied sleeping rooms where the third floor renovation provides no ingress/egress to thru the main house. Its only access being an outside ladder that is adjacent to the main electric service line.

A two-unit duplex dwelling that has had illegal alterations including a fourth bedroom in each dwelling unit. Both of the units were renovated with no building, electrical or safety inspections having been provided for any of the alterations.

A three-unit dwelling that was illegally altered with a bedroom that does not have access to the first floor dwelling unit and the main dwelling unit’s kitchen or bathroom. The second floor unit has three bedrooms but not the required living room.

A single family home with two sleeping rooms illegally installed in the basement without any permits. No safety, building or electrical inspections being provided. The only egress for the two basement occupants is through a kitchen door with no emergency escape windows.

In addition to adopted building and fire safety codes the city has an adopted zoning code that requires that no dwelling unit (single family, duplex, apartment etc.) shall be occupied by more than three unrelated persons unless the landlord has a valid lodging establishment license.” A lodging establishment is a place of business that has obtained a special use permit from the City of Evanston and allows more than three unrelated persons to live in the particular dwelling.

Generally, safety code inspections of all rental units in Evanston are scheduled bi-annually with notification to the owner/landlord. If construction or remodeling work has been permitted, construction inspections will also occur with notifications to the permit holder or owner. However, when the city receives complaints about properties or observes construction work when no valid permits have been issued, these properties will be inspected with authorization by the landlord or the tenant. If construction work has been done without permits, a “stop work order” will be posted on the property and letter sent to the owners.

Many Northwestern University (NU) students live in multi-family dwelling units and some encounter unsafe living conditions in rental apartments. To help insure the safety of NU students, on-going quarterly meetings are held with city staff and NU Student Affairs Division staff to ensure good communication of issues facing students living off-campus in Evanston. At its most recent meeting, last week, city staff provided NU Student Affairs staff the following information:

A listing of various properties with ongoing/current enforcement activities Reassurance that the city does not evict individuals (students) from rental housing. However, if there are life-safety issues that are endangering renters, then it may be necessary for renters to relocate if the rental housing is deemed unsafe for occupancy due to landlord neglect/noncompliance.

Confirmation that the City will not prohibit occupancy until July 1, 2012 of rental properties that may be or have been cited for various non-life threatening code issues such as the zoning code for not having a special use permit when the occupancy of the particular dwelling unit exceeds three unrelated persons.

Finally, the City of Evanston will work with NU Student Affairs staff to aggressively advertise properties with current code enforcement cases pending so that NU students are advised to not enter into leases for the 2012/13 school year at these locations.

Steve Griffin

City of Evanston

Director of Community and Economic Development


The following map represents the list of 52 properties that are under investigation for open building and/or overoccupancy in Evanston. Zoom out to view all the locations and zoom in closer to look at a street in more detail. Click and drag to navigate around the map. Click on a marker to find out the exact address of a particular unit.

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