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Vacant Building Registration Ordinance

Park Forest

Policy and Governance

An MPC policy and governance case study

Program background

Park Forest’s Vacant Building Registration Ordinance was adopted in 2009 after a rise in the number of vacant buildings began to threaten the quality of life and safety of residents. The ordinance, which sought to build closer relationships between property owners and the Village, was met with wide public support.. The program has increased owner accountability and allowed the Village to streamline the process of monitoring vacant buildings. Two housing inspectors, one code enforcement officer and the Village’s director of community development oversee the program and are responsible for its implementation.

How it works

Buildings must register with the Village within 60 days of becoming vacant. Those that are up for sale or rent are not required to register. The property owner or responsible party is required to submit an annual $200 registration fee, a vacant building plan and proof that they hold liability insurance, ranging from $500,000 to $2 million in coverage depending on the number of building units.

Requiring a building plan has been an effective tool in pressing owners to claim responsibility for the care of their property, and can be used as supporting documentation if the Village should need to bring a property owner to court. Building plans include short and long-term objectives that detail how the property owner plans to maintain and secure the property and how they plan to bring the property back into good use. Buildings cannot remain vacant for more than two years without an approved plan for occupancy, sale, demolition or other disposition. After a two-year period, the Village will take property owners to court who fail to comply with the registration program and do not maintain their property up to code.

Vacant building owners that fail to register their buildings, fail to file or comply with vacant building plans or fail to come into compliance with Village code are subject to fines. Fines range from $100 per day per violation to a maximum of $750 per day per violation. Real estate transfer stamps have proven to be an effective mechanism for collecting fines or fees owed; buildings that have outstanding fees or fines are not eligible for real estate transfer stamps. The Village has trained its code enforcement team to file liens on buildings without the aid of attorneys, making it a more cost-effective process to collect outstanding money owed.


Department of Community Development, Park Forest

  • Goal

    To enforce the responsible upkeep of vacant buildings and return properties to good use.

  • Target

    Park Forest property owners.

  • Financing

    Registration fees and citations issued for noncompliance.

  • Successes

    The adoption of the ordinance has helped facilitate the regular collection of updated contact information for vacant properties in Park Forest. This has helped the Village combat undesirable activity and has made residents feel safer and more comfortable in their communities.

  • Lessons learned

    Though strict and consistent enforcement is necessary to gain positive outcomes, maintaining a certain degree of flexibility within their code enforcement work has helped the Village to build trust with property owners and mitigate the effects of vacant buildings on the surrounding community.