ROCKFORD (WIFR) - A big change is coming to Winnebago County neighborhoods. Starting Saturday renters will be fined for failing to maintain their homes. This shifts the burden away from landlords and it also gives tenants a sense of pride in where they live.
Ricardo Sanchez moved into an apartment on Rockford’s north side about a month ago. He says it's a nice neighborhood and hopes a new county ordinance aimed at renter's keeps the area clean.
"I think it’s good that way maybe people start having their yards clean a little bit more, make Rockford a little bit better, cleaner place," he said.
The ordinance says it's up to tenants to maintain their property. That means no overflowing trash cans, no trash in the yard, and no tall grass. If there's a problem the Winnebago County Health Department will work with tenants to get the area cleaned up. If nothing changes, the tenant is slapped with a ticket.
Rockford Apartment Association President Paul Arena helped the county write the ordinance. He says before the only option landlords had was to evict messy renters which only perpetuated the problem.
"They go to the next residence and they do it again then they keep moving around you're not really solving any of the problems you're just moving them. We just want to get people to be more connected to the community and more respectful of their neighbors," Arena said.
The ticketing system was also designed to make the county more efficient.
"Less burden on the State's Attorney and the court system and so this should be more efficient and actually easier for the general public," Mike Bacon, with the Winnebago County Health Department, said.
And while Sanchez hopes the system works, he is skeptical.
"People who want to do whatever they want to do, they're going to do it anyway regardless if they get fined or not," he said.
Those fines are different for each type of violation but they range from about $50 to $100 for the first offense. It can go up to $500 for repeated violations.