What You Need to Know About Illinois' Fair Housing Act

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Under the Illinois Fair Housing Act, one can not be denied housing due to race, color, religion, age 40+, sex (including sexual harassment), pregnancy, sexual orientation (including gender-related identity), order of protection status, physical and mental disability, unfavorable military discharge, arrest record, national origin, marital status, familial status, and ancestry.
The 1968 Fair Housing Act is a federal law that seeks to protect Americans from all walks of life while in the housing market. The Civil Rights movement was a historical and powerful catalyst for a bill that is still evolving with the times. The latest update was in 2021 when sexual orientation and gender identity were recognized and included in the protection act. 
All 50 states have protection for renters and homebuyers under the Fair Housing Act; however, each state has made additional provisions and the process of filing a complaint will vary depending on where you live.
If you need to file a discrimination complaint, it can be hard to know where to start. Jerry, the homeowners, renters, and car insurance super app, has put together helpful tips on what you need to know about fair housing in Illinois
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Does Illinois have a Fair Housing Act?

Yes, housing discrimination is investigated by the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) Fair Housing Division. You can find the Fair Housing provisions as part of the Illinois Human Rights Act under Article 1- General Provisions and Article 3-Real Estate Transactions
Illinois is an example of a state that broadened the FHA’s protection to even more of its population.
As it stands now, the FHA protects against discrimination from race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. The Illinois Human Rights Act extended this protection to include: age for persons over 40, pregnancy, sexual orientation (including gender-related identity), sexual harassment, order of protection status, unfavorable military discharge, arrest record, national origin, marital status, and ancestry.
It is illegal for landlords, real estate brokers, rental agents, mortgage lenders, and any other person involved in any aspect of a real estate transaction to deny housing based on any of the reasons listed above
Discrimination is one of those things that you can feel, but it can be challenging to put into words. Here is a list of a few activities that are deemed illegal when based on discrimination:
  • Refusing to partake in a real estate transaction 
  • Stating that a property isn't available when it is still on the market
  • Alternating real estate terms or conditions and gearing them for or against a particular group
  • Discriminatory mortgage practices
  • Offering or retaining a listing based on the characteristics of a protected class
  • Refusing a mortgage or rental application 
  • "Panic peddling" to sway potential homeowners or renters from buying or renting in a particular area
If any of these situations feel familiar and you want to invoke your right to fair housing, you can file a complaint with the IDHR.

Accessibility requirements under the Fair Housing Act

Article 5-Public Accommodations of the Illinois Fair Housing Act lays out accessibility requirements for housing in Illinois. They also have an excellent guidebook for housing professionals that explains how to meet the request for reasonable accommodations and modifications.  
The 1991 Fair Housing Act addresses both the need for reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications in any multifamily dwelling. 
An individual or a representative of someone with a disability can request a reasonable accommodation regarding the housing provider's rules, policies, practices, or services to fully use or enjoy the dwelling. Common accommodation requests are:
  • Requesting a health aide be allowed to use the laundry facilities on behalf of the tenant
  • Requesting a reserved parking spot located closer to the building for a tenant that has mobility concerns
  • Requesting a seeing-eye dog at a location that usually does not allow pets
A reasonable modification request is a physical alteration that can be made inside, outside, and around the dwelling. It will vary depending on the disability and dwelling. Common reasonable modification requests are:
  • Hand railing added to exterior steps
  • Kitchens and bathrooms laid out for wheelchair users
  • Reinforced bathroom walls to support a grab bar 
If your landlord refuses to make reasonable changes to the home to accommodate your disability, you have the right to file a complaint.  
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How to file a fair housing complaint in Illinois

Have you ever been to an open house and fallen in love with the place only to have the realtor list a million reasons why this isn't the right home for you and your family? Have you had a potential landlord suggest you submit your rental application to a different apartment complex, one where you may feel more comfortable?
Sadly, discrimination still happens every day. If you feel that it is happening to you, file a charge with the Illinois Depart of Human Rights.
To get started, download and complete the Housing Complainant Information Sheet/Intake Form. It is available in English and Spanish.
Then send the form to the IDHR via:
  • Email: IDHR.FairHousing@illinois.gov
  • Mail: Illinois Department of Human Rights, 555 West Monroe Street, 7th Floor - Attn: Housing Intake, Chicago, IL 60661
Here is the information you will need to complete the form:
  • Name and contact details of the person, persons, or entity that discriminated against you
  • The address and number of units of the property being sold or rented
  • Contact information for any witnesses
  • Any physical documentation you may have related to the matter
Once the form is received, an investigator will determine if there is enough evidence of discrimination through interviews with you, witnesses, and the party in question. Some expected outcomes are:
  • Money settlement
  • Granting the denied accommodation request
  • Approving the housing or mortgage application
  • Requiring the individuals in question to appropriate training
For additional information, take a look at this brochure, A Guide to Your Fair Housing Rights. It is available in English, Chinese, French, Spanish, and Polish.

State agency vs. local offices

In Illinois, the IDHR works hand in hand with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Therefore, any cases reported directly to HUD get re-routed to the IDHR. Illinois has additional fair housing organizations in Chicago that are ready to help if you need further assistance.

How to save money on home and renters insurance in Illinois

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To report your landlord for unfair housing practices in Illinois, download the Housing Complainant Information Sheet / Intake Form and email it to IDHR.FairHousing@illinois.gov.

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