In Chicago and Cook County, it is illegal for landlords to discriminate against tenants based on their source of income. The Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance (CRLTO) prohibits discrimination based on an individual’s “lawful source of income,” which includes government assistance such as Section 8 vouchers (CRLTO 5-12-090). Landlords who violate this provision can be held liable for damages. These damages can include emotional distress, punitive damages (meant to punish the violator), fines paid to the city, and attorney’s fees and costs.
Section 8 Discrimination Across Illinois
Additionally, beginning in 2023 the Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on an individual’s “lawful source of income.” This law applies to almost all types of housing, including apartments, single-family homes, and condominiums.
The best evidence of source of income housing discrimination is documentary evidence such as text messages and emails. For example, if a landlord emails you saying “sorry, we don’t accept Section 8 vouchers”, that is very strong (almost conclusive) evidence that a violation was committed. The landlord would have a very tough time defending against something like that.
Testimony Evidence in Section 8 Discrimination
But even if you do not have documentary evidence of a violation, you can still provide testimonial evidence. Testimonial evidence is your testimony based on what you remember. If the landlord told you over the phone that they “do not accept Section 8”, then you can testify to that and that will be considered evidence. Obviously this is more challenging to prove than having documents to back up your testimony, but it’s not impossible. That’s why it’s important to write down everything that was said over the phone or in person while it’s still fresh in your mind so you don’t forget.
If you’ve experienced source of income housing discrimination, let us know and we’ll tell you if you have a case or not.