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Illinois Fair Housing Act: An Overview

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Fair Housing Act is a law established to protect landlords and renters against any form of discrimination, with the goal of providing equal housing opportunities to all individuals in the United States. 

Everyone involved in a housing transaction, including landlords, sellers, lenders, real estate agents, insurance providers, appraisers, and the like is required to comply with this law. 

This applies during the tenant screening process, the lease agreement, and in lease termination or eviction

As a landlord in Illinois, you need to understand the provisions under the Fair Housing Act in Illinois to avoid committing unintentional violations.

What is Fair Housing?

The Fair Housing Act, enacted in 1968 as part of the Civil Rights Act, is a federal law in the United States designed to prevent discrimination in the rental, sale, or financing of housing based on different factors individuals cannot control. 

This law was a significant step in ensuring equal access to housing and combating housing discrimination. 

It prohibits practices such as:

 

  • Refusing to sell or rent housing: Housing providers cannot refuse to sell or rent housing to someone because of various factors, including race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin.
  • Different terms or conditions: Housing providers cannot provide different housing services or conditions based on a person's inclusion in one of the protected categories.
  • Discriminatory advertising: It's illegal to make, print, or publish any statement that indicates a preference based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.

happy family at rental home

  • Harassment: The Act also prohibits harassment of tenants or potential tenants based on the protected characteristics.
  • Mortgage lending discrimination: Financial institutions are prohibited from refusing to provide a mortgage or imposing different mortgage terms based on these protected characteristics.

The Act is enforced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Individuals who believe they have been victims of housing discrimination can file a complaint with HUD, which investigates the allegations and seeks to resolve issues through mediation, administrative hearings, or, in some cases, legal action.

Protected Classes Under the Federal Fair Housing Act

Under the federal Fair Housing law, there are seven protected classes that all housing providers must not discriminate against, including:

 

  • Race: This refers to protection against discrimination based on an individual's race. Housing decisions cannot be based on a person's racial background.
  • Color: This involves discrimination based on the color of a person's skin. It is distinct from race, focusing specifically on skin color.
  • Religion: This protection ensures that individuals cannot be discriminated against based on their religious beliefs or practices.
  • Sex: This category prevents discrimination based on a person's sex, including situations where the terms and conditions of housing are altered due to someone's sex.
  • National Origin: This protects individuals from discrimination based on the country of their origin or their ancestors' origins.
  • Disability: This includes protection for individuals with disabilities, ensuring they have equal access and accommodation in housing.
  • Familial Status: This category protects families with children under 18, including pregnant women and people securing custody of children under 18, from discrimination in housing. For example, you could not charge a higher security deposit for a family with children. 

people meeting and shaking hands for tenant screening interview

In Illinois, the Fair Housing Act ensures that all individuals have equal opportunity to access housing without facing discrimination. 

While it also follows the seven protected classes under the federal Fair Housing Act mentioned above, this act provides an extensive list by including additional protected classes, reflecting the state's commitment to promoting diversity and preventing bias in housing.

These protections are crucial in fostering inclusive communities and ensuring that housing decisions are made based on merit rather than prejudice. 

Here are the additional protected classes under the Illinois Fair Housing Act:

 

  • Pregnancy: Pregnant individuals are protected from discrimination in housing. This includes discrimination due to current pregnancy, past pregnancy, or potential future pregnancy.
  • Ancestry: Similar to national origin, this protects individuals from discrimination based on their family lineage.
  • Age Discrimination (Over 40): This provision specifically protects individuals who are over the age of 40 from age-based housing discrimination.
  • Order of Protection Status: Individuals who have an order of protection (such as a restraining order) are protected from housing discrimination.
  • Marital Status: This ensures that an individual's marital status (such as being single, married, divorced, or widowed) cannot be used as a basis for housing discrimination.
  • Sexual Orientation: This protection covers discrimination based on an individual's sexual orientation, whether they are heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, etc.
  • Gender-Related Identity: This includes protection for transgender individuals and those who do not conform to traditional gender norms.

property manager using computer

 

  • Unfavorable Military Status Discharge: Individuals who have been discharged from the military under conditions other than honorable are protected from discrimination in housing.
  • Physical Disability: This provides equal housing access and accommodation for individuals with physical disabilities, including allowing service pets to accommodate their special needs.
  • Mental Disability: Similar to physical disability, this protects individuals with mental disabilities from discrimination in housing.
  • Immigration Status: Individuals are protected from discrimination based on their citizenship or immigration status. 

Exemptions to the Fair Housing Act

The Illinois Fair Housing Act, similar to the federal Fair Housing Act, does have certain exemptions where the anti-discrimination provisions do not apply.

 

  • Owner-Occupied Buildings: If the owner lives in a building with four or fewer units, the owner is exempt from certain provisions of the Act. It's important to note, however, that discriminatory advertising is still not allowed even under this exemption.
  • Single-Family Homes: An owner who sells or rents a single-family home without the use of a broker and who owns no more than three such homes at one time is exempt, provided again that discriminatory advertising is not used.
  • Religious Organizations: A religious organization can give preference to persons of the same religion unless membership in the religion is restricted on account of race, color, or national origin. This exemption applies only to property that the organization owns and is not used for commercial purposes.
  • Private Clubs: A private club not open to the public may restrict the rental or occupancy of lodgings it owns to its members.
  • Age-Restricted Housing: Housing that meets legal criteria for senior living can restrict residency based on age, usually 55 and older.

Bottom Line

The Illinois Fair Housing Act serves as a crucial tool in combating housing discrimination and helps to foster diverse, inclusive communities across the state. As such, understanding and adhering to the principles of this law is essential for property owners, renters, and all stakeholders in the housing sector. 

By promoting fairness and equality in housing, Illinois sets an important precedent for protecting the rights and dignity of all its residents.If you have more questions, contact Domain Property Management and we’ll be happy to help you.

Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided in this blog is intended for general guidance and should not be considered as a replacement for professional legal advice. It is important to be aware that laws pertaining to property management may change, rendering this information outdated by the time you read it.

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