Windy City Times reports that a transgender tenant in Rogers Park has brought a fair housing complaint against her landlord with the Chicago Commission on Human Relations. The complaint alleges that the landlord refused to rent to the tenant because she was transgender and her fiancée is black. A representative of the landlord allegedly told the tenant that the landlord would be “…unable to rent out other spaces in his building because prospective tenants were put off by both by Roberts’ gender identity and the race of her fiance…”
Fair housing laws seek to eliminate discrimination against members of certain classes in housing transactions. Many landlords lack a familiarity with fair housing laws. However, the enforcement of these laws is a hot trend in landlord-tenant laws and if you think the judgments in CRLTO cases are bad, you should see some of the penalties handed down in discrimination cases.
Under federal fair housing law, there are seven protected classes: race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability status, familial status. However, Chicago landlords have three other fair housing laws to deal with and each has their own set of protected classes. The State of Illinois, Cook County, and Chicago all have their own fair housing law.
The Illinois fair housing law adds five new protected classes to the seven federal protected classes: age (40+), military status and unfavorable discharge from military service, marital status, and sexual orientation including gender identity. The Cook County human rights ordinance has fourteen protected classes, adding housing status and source of income protection (including section 8 participants) to the protected classes: race, color, sex, age, religion, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, military discharge status, source of income, or housing status. Finally, the City of Chicago sets forth fourteen protected classes: race, color, sex, age (40+), religion, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, family status, military discharge status or source of income. Unlike Cook County, the Chicago ordinance does not include “housing status” and adds in “gender identity” in addition to sexual orientation.
Landlords governed by the fair housing laws need to be aware of the protected classes and cannot discriminate based upon them or set policies that tend to have a disparate impact resulting in discrimination against members of those protected classes.
Many landlords think that they are the “king of their castle”. They aren’t. They run a business in one of the most highly regulated industries in the State of Illinois and they need to know and obey the law. How do they “protect” themselves? Knowing and understanding what they can and cannot do when it comes to rental applications, procedures, advertising, and leases. This is not an easy task (it is much easier on paper than in “real life”!), however, four levels of government have made a policy decision that landlords cannot discriminate (based on including in a protected class). It won’t be tolerated.