As of Jan. 1. 2023, source of income (SOI) has been added to the list of statewide protected classes under the Illinois Human Rights Act. The new law bans discrimination in housing based on source of income, including housing choice vouchers.
The definition of SOI means “the lawful manner in which an individual supports or his or her dependents,” according to the Illinois Human Rights Act Section 5/1-103(O-5). Presumably, this definition includes legal wages, commissions, alimony, child support, veterans’ benefits, social security and any public assistance including housing choice vouchers, sometimes referred to as Section 8 subsidies.
Property owners who choose not to accept legal source of income could face a Fair Housing violation issued by the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR).
Also, be mindful that regulations can vary by local ordinances. Consult your local legal counsel or Housing Authority for clarifications.
What are best practices for housing providers to prevent discrimination against all protected classes?
- Apply consistent screening criteria, such as:
- First come, first served for applicants
- Review credit score with a reasonable threshold; or alternatively, if the applicant does not have a credit score
- Consider rental/housing payment history
- Utility payment history
- Other bill payment history
- Landlord references using legal parameters – i.e., were they habitual lease breakers?
- Ability to pay based on consistent criteria
- If housing provider uses a ratio income to rent amount, i.e., 3 X rent, only consider applicant’s portion that does not include the amount of a housing choice voucher (See FAQs)
- If limiting or denying the housing, document the legal reason for doing so, such as regardless of SOI, applicant cannot afford the unit.
- Housing providers should consult their attorney with questions or concerns.
Does the Source of Income statute apply to all housing?
It applies to most housing with a few exemptions, such as owner-occupied housing with four or fewer units or rental of a private room within a home where the owner or family resides.
Does the (Illinois Human Rights Act) IHRA inclusion of Source of Income as a protected class apply to real estate brokerage activities, including leasing?
Who is considered a housing provider?
The owner/landlord, property management companies, homeowner associations, corporations, real estate brokers and others who might sell or rent housing. NOTE: Financial institutions and appraisers must also refrain from discriminating based on Source of Income.
Will a housing provider be required to lower the rent to allow a housing choice voucher participant to rent the unit?
No. While housing providers will not be required to lower their rent to accommodate a Source of Income, they must not inflate their rent to avoid renting to a housing choice voucher participant. They must also avoid charging a different amount for security deposit than they do for market tenants.
Does the IHRA inclusion of Source of Income as a protected class prohibit housing providers from saying in advertisements that they will not accept housing choice vouchers or Section 8 subsidies?
Yes. The IHRA prohibits any advertising that will violate the Act, which now includes Source of Income.
Can a housing provider decline a unit to an applicant who does not have the required security deposit?
Yes, so long as the criteria is applied uniformly to all rental housing applicants.
Can a housing provider keep a unit open for a housing choice voucher applicant if another market tenant is ready to go and the initial inspection has not been completed by the local housing authority?
The State of Illinois has not yet given guidance on that question, so the housing provider should check with the local housing authority and their own attorney on that issue.
Can I still use my own lease when renting to a housing voucher tenant?
Housing providers can use their own leases. You can expect a slight amount of additional paperwork to submit to the Chicago Housing Authority.
What to do if I find myself with a “problem” tenant?
Housing providers have access to the assigned case worker when potential issues may arise with a tenant.
What happens if I am found in violation?
“In many cases, the investigator can help the parties resolve the matter. A voluntary settlement between the parties may involve payment of money, granting an accommodation request, approving a housing application, training housing providers, posting information on fair housing in common areas, or other appropriate relief.” Source: IDHR
Who enforces fair housing in the City of Chicago?
Fair housing law is governed by the Chicago Fair Housing Ordinance (CFHO) and is enforced by the Chicago Commission on Human Relations (CCH).
Illinois REALTORS® SOI Video Resources
Learn more about Fair Housing and the Role of Illinois Department of Human Rights
The Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) administers the Illinois Human Rights Act. The IL Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination in Illinois with respect to employment, financial credit, public accommodations, housing and sexual harassment, as well as sexual harassment in education. Learn more here.
Learn more about Fair Housing and the Role of The Chicago Housing Authority
The Chicago Housing Authority provides homes to more than 63,000 households while supporting healthy communities in neighborhoods throughout the city. Equal housing opportunity for all persons, regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, age, sex, familial status, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, military status or disability, is a fundamental policy of the CHA. The CHA is committed to diligence in assuring equal housing opportunity and non-discrimination in all aspects of its housing activities. Learn more here.