Landlords in the Evanston area are fuming over their inclusion on a recently-released list of 52 rental properties with safety violations, a move they are alleging amounts to a public “blacklisting” of them and their businesses.
“The city has publicly insulted my business, my family’s business, and they directly impacted our immediate clientele of the student population,” said property owner Josh Braun.
Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl has said the list was intended as a “helpful tool” for Northwestern University students looking at properties, not a warning of landlord negligence.
Jeff Murphy, an Evanston city inspector, said that tenant complaints, neighbor complaints and inspections all contributed to the 52 properties being named as hazards.
No specific information about the violations, though, has been released, and the lack of transparency behind the listings has particularly irritated some of the landlords, Nefrette Halim among them.
“I got a call from somebody last week saying, ‘your name is on the Internet,’” Halim said. “The tone of the letter implied that I was putting people in harm’s way. I had no notification of this letter. I had no notification that this would be going out. I have been actively trying to work with inspectors getting violation information, and I was very upset when I saw this.”
Braun was even more pointed in his remarks.
“They did not take the appropriate steps to make sure the information was accurate,” he said. “They did not send out any inspectors … By allowing this list to be published, the city has put undue economic strain on perfectly good properties.”
Even Aldermen are throwing their hat in the controversy. Melissa Wynne, the third ward Alderman who represents Evanston, said as a recent Planning and Development Committee meeting that the right information has not been presented by the city.
“If the city has that factual information about the numbers of violations and the types, it is public information,” Wynne said. “Why shouldn’t we make it available to folks?”