by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producerBy CBS 2 Chicago Staff

CHICAGO (CBS) — Less than a week after advancing an ordinance to require landlords to give long-term tenants more notice before terminating or not renewing their lease, or raising their rent, aldermen on Monday resurrected a proposal that would provide even greater protections for tenants.

The so-called “Just Cause for Eviction” ordinance had been sent to the City Council Rules Committee, where legislation opposed by the mayor is typically sent to languish without a vote. But after Mayor Lori Lightfoot said last month she wanted aldermen to debate the proposal, the Rules Committee on Monday sent the measure to the Housing Committee, where it could get a public hearing after the next meeting of the full City Council.

However, the measure could face an uphill battle for passage, as the mayor opposes it, meaning even if a majority of aldermen support the plan, they would need 34 out of 50 votes to override a potential veto.

Chicago currently allows “no-fault” evictions, but the ordinance backed by a group of progressive aldermen seeks to put an end to that.

The “Just Cause for Eviction” ordinance would allow landlords to go to court to evict a tenant only if the landlord can establish the tenant has not paid rent, has violated the terms of their lease, or refuses the landlord’s request to renew or extend their lease. A landlord also could seek to evict a tenant so the owner or a close relative (spouse, child, parent, grandparent, sibling or grandchild) can move into the unit as their primary residence for at least 12 months; if the owner plans to sell the unit as a condominium conversion; if significant repairs or renovations are required; or if the owner plans to demolish the unit.

The measure also would require most landlords to provide a $10,600 relocation fee to tenants being forced to move out for repairs, demolition, condo conversion, or to allow the owner or a relative to live there. Owners of buildings with four or fewer units would be required to pay a lower relocation fee under those circumstances, with the fee dependent on the reasons for the eviction, and the median monthly Chicago rent for an apartment with the same number of bedrooms.

In addition, the ordinance would require landlords to give tenants anywhere from 30 days’ to 120 days’ notice before raising their rent:

  • 30 days’ written notice would be required before a rent increase of up to 5%;
  • 60 days’ written notice would be required before a rent increase of at least 5% but less than 10%;
  • 90 days’ written notice would be required before a rent increase of at least 10% but less than 15%;
  • 120 days’ written notice would be required before a rent increase of 15% or more.

If a landlord were to increase a tenant’s rent by 20% or more within 12 months, the renter would be allowed to reject the rent hike, and vacate the premises before the required notice period has ended, and the landlord would be required to provide the tenant with a relocation fee within 14 days of the renter’s rejection.

Any rent increase of 50% or more within 12 months would be deemed “excessive, unconscionable, and against public policy.”

A handful of groups representing landlords and property owners spoke out in opposition to the ordinance Monday before it was sent to the Housing Committee.

Real estate attorney Ebony Lucas said the relocation fees could force landlords to raise rents, because the fees are not tied to the amount of rent paid, whether or not a tenant is current on their rent payments, or the condition of a unit when it is turned back over to the landlord. She said most landlords would struggle to make enough profit in one year to pay for a single $10,600 location fee.

Clint Sabin, with the Neighborhood Building Owners’ Alliance, said many landlords are already struggling to keep their buildings open and pay their own bills during the pandemic, because so many tenants can’t afford to pay their full rent.

“We aren’t asking grocery stores to give away free food, or pharmacies to give away free medication or diapers, but we are asking housing providers to give away free homes,” he said. “Adding a resident’s right to a unit forever, on top of added regulations and burdens such as increased notifications, is risking the ability of our neighborhood housing providers to keep their properties, and increasing the chance they’ll sell them to giant, faceless corporations.”

The ordinance could be called for a hearing at anytime after the next full City Council meeting on Wednesday, although the following City Council meeting won’t happen until September, due to the council’s annual summer break in August.

The provisions of the “Just Cause for Eviction” ordinance go much further to protect tenants than the mayor’s “Fair Notice” ordinance, which was backed by the Housing Committee last week. That ordinance, up for a final vote on Wednesday, would require landlords to give long-term tenants up to four months’ notice before terminating or not renewing their lease, or raising their rent.

Under the mayor’s proposal, landlords would be required to give 60 days’ notice to tenants who have lived in their unit between 6 months and 3 years before ending their lease; 120 days’ notice would be required for tenants who have lived in their home for more than 3 years. The current 30 days’ notice would stay for tenants who have lived in a unit for less than 6 months.