The Chicago City Council adopted an ordinance in April 2018 that defines "demolition by neglect" for Chicago Landmarks and buildings, structures, and works of art in Chicago Landmark districts. The ordinance also sets penalties that prevent new construction on the same site.

A demolition by neglect incident occurs when one of those buildings or structures falls "into a state of disrepair such that the Structure has become, or is in imminent danger of becoming, structurally compromised" due to the owner's "acts or omissions that significantly contribute to damage to a Structure...to a degree that results in its demolition". The owner must make the necessary repairs within 30 days of receiving the notice from the City that the building is unsafe or structurally compromised,

Evidence of those acts or omissions include:

  • Exterior parts that may fall off and injure a person

  • A structural element which is defective or deteriorated, insufficient to safely carry imposed loads, or split, sagging, listing, buckling, or leaning

  • Ineffective waterproofing or weather protection

  • Work done on the building outside the scope of or without a permit

Penalties include not being able to obtain a new construction permit for the property for two years if the violation is prosecuted by the Chicago Department of Administrative Hearings, and ten years if the violation is prosecuted by the Cook County Circuit Court. Potential fines have also increased from $500-$1,000 to $1,000-$2,000.

The ordinance was introduced by 2nd Ward Alder. Brian Hopkins because of the demolition of the house at 1720 N Sedgwick Ave in the Old Town Triangle Historic District.

The St. Laurence church, depicted above, was demolished in 2014; the incident wouldn’t have been affected by this ordinance, even if it was enacted prior to the building’s demolition, for the building was not a Chicago landmark or in a Chicago landmark district. It was, however, rated orange in the Chicago Historic Resources Survey, but those ratings don’t bestow any protections. Similar churches by the same architect as St. Laurence have been landmarked.

Contact MAPS to determine if a property or building is in a Chicago Landmark or in a Chicago Landmark district, or help in resolving existing building code violations.

Ordinance: SO2017-4871

Photo of the St. Laurence church by Eric Allix Rogers.