Building and License Enforcement
The division attorneys prosecute in the following practice areas: Administrative Hearings/Buildings; Conservation, including Heat and Lead Paint; License Enforcement; Technical; Troubled Buildings, including Demolition, Drug and Gang House Enforcement (DGHES) and Strategic Task Force (STF); and Zoning. Due to the public safety component to these prosecutions, there are often daily emergencies that need to be addressed immediately to protect the health and safety of the public. Prosecutions are very fluid as emergencies are resolved and new ones arise.
The DGHES and STF sections the Troubled Buildings Unit work in conjunction with the Chicago Police Department to investigate and prosecute property owners who permit or encourage criminal activity to occur on their property. Attorneys review the police reports, meet with potential witnesses and visit the subject property with police personnel in order to determine which cases to prosecute. Attorneys also meet with community groups to determine which properties harbor criminal activity in their neighborhood. The Department of Buildings conducts inspections on all problem buildings referred by police for DGHES prosecution. Prosecutors file cases against property owners in either Administrative Hearings or Circuit Court and seek fines and abatement measures to curb crime at the property.
The Demolition section of the Troubled Buildings Unit works in conjunction with the Departments of Buildings, Housing, and Police in an effort to identify and abate vacant and deteriorated properties throughout the City of Chicago. The section prepares and prosecutes civil complaints in the Circuit Court of Cook County against the owners of vacant buildings that fail to meet minimum Municipal Code requirements and/or present a safety threat to the surrounding community. In these case the seeks either the appointment of a receiver to abate dangerous conditions that threaten public safety, or an order authorizing the City to demolish the structure, with any costs incurred to be assessed as a lien.
The mission of the Conservation Unit is to conserve existing buildings, to compel responsible property ownership, and to incentivize the transfer of ownership to capable owners. Conservation also works to promote real estate development in conformity with minimum standards of public health and safety. Conservation routinely coordinates its prosecutions with the following City Departments in its efforts to enforce the building, health and fire codes: Department of Buildings, Family and Support Services, Fire, Health, Housing, Planning and Development, Police, and Streets and Sanitation.
Conservation’s mission promotes the quality of life in City neighborhoods by proactive code enforcement. The Conservation Unit is also charged with formulating innovative legal initiatives against delinquent landlords and property owners within the city. Conservation attorneys continue to improve citizens’ quality of life by bringing buildings into compliance with the City’s codes and promoting redevelopment of buildings so that they are returned to viability.
Conservation attorneys frequently act on short notice and file emergency actions. Its attorneys also prosecute cases in an effort to stop the growing number of illegal conversions and condominium properties that have fallen into disrepair due to fraud and neglect. Finally, Conservation attorneys work diligently with community groups and city agencies to reclaim and revitalize city neighborhoods.
The License Enforcement Unit prosecutes license violation cases before the Local Liquor Control Commission and the License Appeal Commission, and defends appeals in the Chancery Division in the Circuit Court of Cook County.
The Zoning Unit enforces the Zoning Ordinance (Title 17 of the Municipal Code of Chicago) in Circuit Court. Zoning’s enforcement actions seek injunctive relief and/or civil penalties for violations of the Zoning Ordinance, such as illegal conversions, illegal signs, non-permitted business activities, off-street parking and landscape violations. The Zoning Unit works in conjunction with the Departments of Housing and Planning and Development on various Zoning initiatives, and also coordinates prosecutions with the Departments of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, Buildings, and Health. Zoning attorneys also provide advice and counsel to the Zoning Administrator on a variety of legal issues.
In addition to prosecutorial work, attorneys in the Zoning Unit often defend the City in complex litigation brought in the Chancery Division seeking mandamus, declaratory judgments and injunctive relief for the City’s failure to issue building permits, zoning certificates or certificates of occupancy.