Thanks to the influence of Illinois REALTORS®, the Joliet City Council voted against changing a city ordinance that would have created additional barriers to selling properties, delayed or derailed real estate transactions and led to more abandoned properties in the city.

Illinois REALTORS® Local Government Affairs Director Nora Gruenberg outlined these “unintended consequences” when she addressed the Joliet City Council on behalf of more than 450 local REALTORS®. The ordinance change would have required all fees and fines owed to the city to be paid before the city would issue a stamp to allow the transaction to close.

Supporters of the amendment argued that it would close what they perceive to be a loophole in the foreclosure process that makes it tough for the city to collect amounts they are owed.

While acknowledging the fiscal concerns of the city, REALTORS® argued that this proposal amounted to a de facto lien on the property, without requiring the city to be subject to all the recording, notice and due process requirements of the normal lien process. In addition, REALTORS® argued that this de facto, unrecorded lien would allow the city to give themselves priority over other properly recorded liens on the property, creating a potential legal headache for property owners, other properly recorded lienholders and the city.

As an alternative, REALTORS® offered to assist the city in thinking of ways in which the city can better utilize the existing lien process in a manner than allows the city to more effectively collect outstanding debts owed by property owners in a manner that is fair to all parties involved and allows a real estate transaction to proceed and close in a fair and efficient manner.

“Properly utilizing the already existing lien process is the solution to this problem,” Gruenberg said when addressing the council prior to its discussion and vote. “I encourage city council members to not pass the transfer tax ordinance amendment as it is written, and to discuss ways the city staff can better utilize its processes – including the lien process.”

The council voted 5-3 against the ordinance amendment, but Gruenberg said the issue may not be permanently resolved. She will continue to consult with Legislative Attorney Matthew Rentschler. The original proposal was backed by Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk.