Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

75° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Email Newsletter

Sign up to receive our email newsletter in your inbox.



University officials agree uncertainty remains in ‘brothel law’ enforcement

University officials agreed Thursday there remains uncertainty in how Evanston’s infamous occupancy laws are being enforced, but they stressed both parties are still invested in tenant safety.

“It’s all about student safety – landlords, the city, University are all in accord on that,” Dean of Students Burgwell Howard told The Daily on Thursday. “How we get there is what we differ on.”

Assistant Dean of Students Betsi Burns said she shares a similar attitude toward the city’s “brothel law,” which prohibits more than three unrelated residents living in the same space.

The city’s enforcement strategy has come under renewed scrutiny after several Northwestern students reported aggressive inspections and over-occupancy citations to The Daily earlier this week.

“I am glad to see the landlords and the city are in agreement about the health and safety of the students,” Burns said. “We’re glad to see everyone is at least on the same page about that.”

But some students are still skeptical about the underlying intent of the so-called “brothel law.”

One student, who wished to remain anonymous due to a pending inspection, said the recent developments are less than promising.

“It’s downright insulting that they even claim that this is about safety,” he said. “I have never felt unsafe in any over-occupied home I’ve entered. If there was a fire, one more person is not going to significantly hinder my access to a doorway. “

When asked Thursday whether he had ever heard of a life-threatening incident specifically caused by over-occupancy, Howard said he could not recall “any specific report of that nature.”

He also emphasized the economic motives of both parties should be taken into account.

“Students and landlords have shared interests,” Howard said. “Students are trying to divide rents that are set by the landlords, landlords need to cover their expenses, and ideally – if you’re running a business – make a profit.”

Both Burns and Howard confirmed the University requested the list of 52 properties currently under city investigation, which the city released Tuesday. Burns added the University had actually been seeking the list from the city “for a while now” and was satisfied it was finally handed over.

However, one student who wished to remain anonymous because his house appeared on the list said he felt “singled out” because the index only seemed to identify student residences.

“This city knows that there are many other residences out there on the other side of town that are breaking the brothel law,” he said. “It’s true, but those properties weren’t on the list.”

Other students also disputed city claims over-occupied homes threaten tenant safety. An off-campus student, who also wished to remain anonymous because he lives in an over-occupied house, said the law is too vague.

“It’s unclear what constitutes an unsafe violation of the law, especially since a lot of the houses that violate this law actually seem perfectly safe,” he said. “It’s perfectly within the city’s rights to maintain the safety of the buildings, but the stringency of the brothel law seems unreasonable in a lot of the cases.”

Current freshmen looking to move off campus in future years will be most affected by the law once the city begins taking action against landlords whose properties are in violation of city ordinances, including over-occupancy, in July.

In a statement the city released Tuesday, officials said landlords whose properties are in violation in July will have their renting licenses revoked for those addresses, or will not be issued new ones.

Students like Weinberg freshman Elissa Rothman say this will limit housing options.

“I was considering moving off campus as early as next year, but now it’s a different game because I need to look for smaller housing or living on my own, which isn’t very cost-effective,” Rothman said. “I respect the law but it’s important to recognize that it’s unreasonable.”

For Weinberg freshman Monty Montano, the issue is primarily economic.

“It will be a lot harder for me to find a decent apartment if only other two people can split the rent,” Montano said. “I might just have to end up living on campus if the law is enforced.”

Annie Chang and Katherine Driessen contributed reporting.

[email protected]


More to Discover
Activate Search
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
University officials agree uncertainty remains in ‘brothel law’ enforcement