Repealing the Rent Control Preemption Act

Repealing the Rent Control Preemption Act

On Monday, February 6th, State Representative Will Guzzardi introduced H.B. 2430, which seeks to repeal S.B. 531, known as the Rent Control Preemption Act. Real estate lobbyists drove the passage of S.B. 531 in 1997 with the intent of preventing any thought of rent control in the state, despite the fact that no city had any form of rent control or rent stabilization in place.

The basis of the bill to repeal S.B. 531 is that the Illinois Constitution allows for "municipal home rule," where cities can make decisions for themselves unless a state law explicitly prohibits them from doing so. Thus, repealing S.B. 531 is foremost about honoring local decision-making.

It is important to note that repealing S.B. 531 would not institute any form of rent control or stabilization in any region of Illinois on any level. Repealing S.B. 531 would simply eliminate the preemption of rent control in order to prioritize local decision-making. This is a critical distinction.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing supports Representative Guzzardi’s bill to repeal S.B. 531 on the basis of prioritizing local decision-making. We have not taken any formal position on rent control outside of the repeal of this bill. LCBH does, however, oppose unconscionable rent increases on the part of the landlord. While the definition of unconscionable varies situationally, it is generally defined as a rent increase that is "extremely harsh or so unreasonable as to be shocking" (LSNJ Law). The Rent Control Preemption Act effectively ensures that there is no mechanism by which unconscionable rent increases are constrained.

Ultimately, LCBH recognizes the complexity of the Chicagoland rental market and views a potential repeal of the Rent Control Preemption Act as one of many tools that will promote stable housing both in Chicago and across the state.