Lots going on – Illinois amending Human Rights Act

Illinois Landlords Criminal Screening to Change Drastically

I’ve been away busy most of the summer, but plenty has been going on in Illinois and Chicago and not much of it has been good for landlords.  In the coming weeks, I’ll be back with some quick hits to go over some of the important things that have gone on over the last 120 days.

I’ll start with the State of Illinois legislature’s amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act.  This law prohibits discrimination in real estate transactions, financial transactions, employment, and public accommodations based upon membership in a protected class.  Senate Bill SB1780 has passed both houses of the Illinois legislature and has been sent to Governor Pritzker.  if the law is not vetoed by August 31, 2019, it will pass into law and will be effective beginning January 1, 2020.

At Section 775 ILCS 5/3-102, the law will provide that it is a civil rights violation for an owner or other person engaged in a real estate transaction or a real estate broker to discriminate against someone based on their arrest record.  Basically, a person’s arrest record is now a protected class.  The law defines an arrest record as a record of (1) an arrest not leading to a conviction; (2) a juvenile record; or (3) criminal history record information ordered  expunged, sealed, or impounded under the Criminal Identification Act.

This law falls in line with the recent policy shift embodied by the 2016 HUD guidance on the use of criminal background checks in housing and the recently passed and soon to be effective Cook County Just Housing Ordinance.

Based on the SB1780’s history, the bill was introduced on February 15, 2019 as a bill to create the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act – a law that would allow people inheriting property to force a sale of that property with their co-owners.  The law proceeded with a Senate Floor Amendment.  Somehow, on April 10, 2019, the entire text of the law was stricken and a newly proposed law, with changes to the Human Rights Act was proposed.  This law somehow sped through both houses of the legislature and was passed on May 31, 2019.

Once this bill makes its way into law, landlords will need to take a long hard look at their screening criteria so that they do not run afoul of this new legislation.  Screening a potential tenant’s criminal background will be much more difficult.

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