As a rental discrimination lawyer, it is disheartening to see the numerous cases of discrimination that tenants experience when looking for a place to live. Discrimination is illegal under federal and state laws, yet it continues to happen every day.
What is Rental Discrimination?
Rental discrimination occurs when a landlord refuses to rent a property to someone based on their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, familial status, or disability. Some states also prohibit rental discrimination based on source of income, such as Section 8 benefits or VA benefits.
Rental discrimination can take different forms, including refusing to show a property to a particular group, setting different rental terms, or providing false information about the availability of a rental unit.
For example, if a landlord tells a white applicant to fill out a rental application but tells a black applicant that the unit is no longer available (even though it is), that can constitute rental discrimination. In Illinois, rental discrimination is prohibited under the Illinois Human Rights Act and the federal Fair Housing Act.
The Impact of Rental Discrimination
Rental discrimination causes emotional distress, financial difficulties, and even homelessness. Rental discrimination can also limit renter’s choices, preventing them from living in neighborhoods with good schools, safe streets, and job opportunities. It can also impact families with children, who are often denied rental opportunities due to their familial status.
What Should Victims of Rental Discrimination Do?
If you’ve experienced rental discrimination, there are some steps you can take to protect your rights:
- Document the Discrimination: Write down the details of the discrimination, including the date, time, and location of the incident. Keep copies of any correspondence with the landlord or property owner. This includes emails and text messages. If everything was done verbally or through the phone, then make notes about what was said.
- Report the Discrimination: Report the discrimination to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR). They will investigate your complaint and take action if necessary. If they find substantial evidence of rental discriminal, then they may file a lawsuit on your behalf.
- Contact a Rental Discrimination Lawyer: If you’ve experienced rental discrimination, contact a rental discrimination lawyer as soon as you can. A lawyer can help you understand your legal rights, gather evidence, and pursue legal action against the responsible parties. Rental discrimination lawyers usually charge a contingency-fee, meaning you pay nothing unless you win your case.
- Know Your Rights: Familiarize yourself with federal and state laws that protect against rental discrimination. Understand the types of discrimination that are illegal and the actions that are prohibited under the law. Know that even cities, such as Chicago, have their own rental discrimination laws.
- Speak Up: If you witness rental discrimination, speak up. Let the landlord or property owner know that discrimination is illegal and unacceptable. Report the incident to HUD or IDHR if necessary.
Why Hire a Rental Discrimination Lawyer?
Hiring a rental discrimination lawyer can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. A lawyer can help you navigate the legal system, gather evidence, and negotiate with the landlord or property owner. They can also represent you in court and help you seek compensation for damages.
Don’t let rental discrimination go unchallenged. If you’ve been a victim of discrimination, contact a rental discrimination lawyer at Justice Legal Center for a free case evaluation.