Five ways to avoid the "brothel law"

    Photo by Tom Coates on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons.

    Let’s assume for a minute that the brothel law remains in place. Despite plenty of irate Facebook statuses and self-righteous listserv emails, the student uprising falters and police officers begin routine apartment checks, breaking down doors and kicking violators out onto the cold, unforgiving Evanston streets.

    Unfortunately, you’ve already signed a lease with more than three students. You can’t afford to have anyone move out, and besides, you’ve got the dishwashing schedule/furniture payments/beer pong teams all worked out. Luckily for you, the seemingly impenetrable Evanston municipal codes have a few loopholes just big enough to fit a proton torpedo through. With some commitment, you can try the following:

    Think about how many pong tables you could fit in there. Photo by tomaszd on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons.

    Become a church (or a daycare, or a school…)

    Those in Evanston’s residential zones can apply to have their place listed for a number of “special uses.” The spiritually minded can declare their apartment a religious institution, or legitimize a bad pickup line or two by naming it a bed and breakfast. Other options include starting a private educational institution or a daycare center (depending on your roommates’ cleanliness, you may already have one).

    The process won’t be easy, however. The landlord or lessee must file an application for a special use permit with the Zoning Administrator. There are a few standards to meet — the special use must not diminish the value of the property, cause traffic congestion or “cause a negative cumulative effect.” The Zoning Administrator will then forward a recommendation to the Zoning Board of Appeals, which sets a date for a public hearing. Everyone within 500 feet of your property is then notified of the hearing, so it might behoove you to start cozying up to your neighbors. Finally, the city council will approve the special use, approve the special use subject to conditions or deny the special use. There’s no telling how long this bureaucratic process could take, so you may want to start building an altar/devising a curriculum/stocking up on diapers as soon as possible.

    You’re gonna have to do better than this. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

    Make history

    Is your house too important to be beholden to the brothel law? If you can prove it to the Evanston Preservation Commission, your place could be named a historic landmark. Criteria include “its location as a site of a significant historic or prehistoric event or activity” (mention your 100-point Madden game last month), “its identification with a person or persons who significantly contributed to the historic, cultural, architectural, archaeological or related aspect of the development of the city” (vomiting on SafeRide is a significant contribution) and “its location as a site of an important archaeological resource” (Natty Ice is an important resource, right?).

    Any resident of the city can nominate your dwelling, at which point the commission will schedule a public hearing. Be prepared to give testimony in defense of the history and importance of your apartment, and bring all related evidence. The commission will give the city council a recommendation, and the council will decide whether or not your mountain of dirty laundry and collection of Creed posters are significant enough to warrant government protection.

    If your friend’s apartment is now a church, have the ceremony there. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

    Put a ring on it

    You’ve probably been dreaming of the day when some lucky guy will take you out on the Lakefill, get down on one knee and ask one of life’s most romantic questions: “Will you help me skirt a municipal housing ordinance?”

    The brothel rule only applies to unrelated roommates, so marriage is a quick and easy alternative for some. To get a marriage license from the Cook County Clerk’s office, just show up, fill out an application, pay a fee and bring ID to prove you’re 18. It’s about as easy as ordering porn online (although in the latter at least someone’s getting laid — hey-oh!).

    Consider adoption

    They’re small, whiny and spit up too much — like a bad formal date. Photo by tomaszd on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons.

    Alas, the state of Illinois currently only recognizes marriage between members of opposite sex. The Evanston codes, however, state that two unrelated persons can make up a family as long as they’re raising children. That means you and your roommates are just a quick visit to the local adoption agency/orphanage/discount baby mart away from becoming one big, happy family. If you don’t want to have to run home from the library to feed a screaming child, you could always try to gain custody of one or more of your roommates. This is considerably more difficult — Illinois state law requires that the “adult has resided in the home of the persons intending to adopt him at any time for more than 2 years continuously preceding the commencement of an adoption proceeding.” Basically, unless you’ve been roommates with these guys since Wildcat Welcome, you don’t have a chance.

    Like you, only slightly better looking. Photo by drini on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons.

    Fake your own death

    It worked for James Bond, Jack Bauer and Commissioner Gordon. Why not you? You can actually order a death certificate online in about a minute, and the Cook County Clerk’s office will ship it to you for $15. Keep it handy so that, if the township inquires about your apartment’s fourth furnished bedroom, your roommates can hand them your death certificate and claim they keep everything in place for sentimental reasons. You might run into some problems when the university finds out you’re legally deceased, but hey — at least you won’t have to worry about finding a new place.


    blog comments powered by Disqus
    Please read our Comment Policy.