Friday, September 11, 2015

Nuisance Ordinances and the Progress in Illinois

         On June 23, 2012, Lakisha Briggs was again cornered by her abusive ex-boyfriend in fear for her safety, and the safety of her three-year-old daughter. Unlike previous occasions Lakisha was faced with the appalling choice of calling the police or being evicted from her rental home. That evening her ex-boyfriend broke an ashtray against her head, then using the broken glass he stabbed her in the neck until she passed out. Hearing the disturbance, a neighbor called the police and Lakisha was flown by trauma helicopter to a nearby hospital. Despite the severity of the assault, Lakisha’s fear of eviction overpowered her and she did not call the police leaving her helpless to endure the wrath of her attacker.

        These fears and concerns are national, with a less drastic yet similar situation occurring recently in Arizona. Both Lakisha and the victim in Arizona were placed in these situations due local nuisance ordinances. The past decade has seen a rise in these ordinances and Crime Free Multi-Housing programs across the nation. They have been adopted by 48 states and around 2,00 cities across the country. Under the ordinance a building will be labeled a nuisance if a specified number of calls are made to the police within a set amount of time, such as three months. The laws are intended to prevent crime by activating individuals who are in a position to influence the environment where the acts are occurring. In Illinois, landlords can evict tenants from their homes if the tenant contacts the police an excessive number of times. The ACLU notes that these ordinances do not distinguish between victims or perpetrators of the crime, which has a disproportionate effect on victims of domestic violence.

        The risk of eviction is yet another factor to add on top of the troubling and frightening situation that is domestic violence. According to the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence 17,000 adults and over 2,000 children served by their shelters in 2014 were from rental housing. However, Illinois domestic violence victims do have hope thanks to Senator Toi Hutchinson. The Senator introduced Senate Bill 1547 in February that was aimed at preventing the creation and enforcement of laws that punish both tenants and landlords if the police are contacted for “domestic or sexual violence, criminal activity, or other emergency situations.”

        As of November 19, 2015 these individuals will be protected under Public Act 099-0441. Since February Senator Hutchinson’s bill has passed through the Senate, the House, and the hands of the governor to be approved as a public act on August 21, 2015. Though the act was amended three times, the overall purpose remained intact. Under the Act it is prohibited for a city to enact or enforce regulations, which would punish tenants or landlords for contacting the police about actual or threats of domestic or sexual violence. The act also empowers a tenant or landlord who may have been wronged by noncompliant laws to bring a civil action for compensatory damages, an injunction, and other appropriate relief. This victory for Illinois is a shining example for the rest of the nation. As other states begin to protect instead of punish victims of abuse the shadow of domestic violence will finally start to recede.



1. Briggs v. Borough of Norristown, No. 2:13-cv-02191 (E. D. Pa. filed April 24, 2013) available at

2. Jessica M. Pieklo, Advocates: Domestic Violence Survivors Dace Housing Instability Under Arizona Housing Ordinance, RH Reality Check (August 31, 2015),

3. The International Crime Free Association hosts a national conference and twelve- hour train the trainer program. Crime Free Multi-Housing, INTERNATIONAL CRIME FREE ASSOCIATION, (last visited September 5, 2015).

4. Mathew Desmond, Eviction and the Reproduction of Urban Poverty, 118 AM. J. SOC. 88, 91 (2012), available at

5. New Legislation Introduced to Prevent Illinois Crime Victims From Being Evicted Under Local Ordinances, ACLU (February 23, 2015), available at

6. Phil Kadner, Victims of Crime Hurt By Crime-Free Laws, CHI. TRIB. (February 26, 2015), 

7. New Legislation Introduced to Prevent Illinois Crime Victims From Being Evicted Under Local Ordinances, ACLU (February 23, 2015), available at

8. Public Act 099-044, available at

9. Status of SB1547, 99th General Assembly, (2015),

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