Proving Section 8 discrimination in housing in Illinois can be tough, but it’s not impossible. Section 8 is also known as a “housing choice voucher”, or HCV for short. It is illegal for landlords to refuse your rental application or to rent to you just because you have Section 8.
Starting in January 2023, Section 8 housing discrimination is illegal across the entire state of Illinois. Previously it was only illegal in Cook county and a few other cities or counties.
Elements of Section 8 Discrimination
You must prove the following element for a Section 8 Discrimination case in Illinois:
- You were trying to enter into a real estate transaction. This includes things like trying to rent or buy a house. Most Section 8 discrimination occurs when people try to rent an apartment.
- The individual was denied housing or faced discrimination in the rental process. This includes not being allowed to fill out a rental application or being told that the apartment is no longer available (when the truth is you got turned down because you have Section 8).
- The discrimination was based on your source of income. This is self-explanatory but can be tough to prove. If they told you over the phone “Sorry, we don’t accept Section 8”, that is still illegal but it’s a he-said she said situation. However, if they sent you an email or text message saying the same thing, then that’s much better evidence of discrimination – the documents don’t lie.
Side note: It’s also illegal to discriminate against folks who receive social security too, not just Section 8. In fact, it’s illegal to discriminate against any type of lawful income in Illinois when it comes to housing.
Gather All Evidence of Section 8 Discrimination
To prove housing discrimination based on Section 8, it can be helpful to gather evidence such as emails or other written communications from the landlord or property manager.
It can also be helpful to bring a witness with you or have them on the phone when you ask about the property. That way if the landlord or agent denies the discrimination, you have another witness that can back you up.
Money Damages for Section 8 Discrimination
If you prove your Section 8 housing discrimination case, you may be entitled to damages under Illinois law. These damages can include:
- Monetary damages for any financial losses incurred as a result of the discrimination, such as the cost of temporary housing.
- Emotional distress damages for any mental or emotional suffering caused by the discrimination. In fact you can recover monetary damages for emotional distress even if you didn’t suffer physical distress.
- Punitive damages, which are designed to punish the landlord or property manager for their discriminatory actions. (Punitive damages are only available in Chicago and a few other places).
The amount of damages a person can receive will vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case. The judge will consider all the evidence your lawyer puts forth when determining damages.
For example, did you Section 8 benefits expire as a result of the discrimination? Did you incur stress about not knowing where you’re going to live next? Are you a single parent that was looking to relocate your kids to a safer neighborhood with better schools?
These are all things the judge will take into account. Your lawyer will help you put together the best case for damages to really show the judge how the discrimination affected you and your family’s lives.
Should you get a lawyer to assist you? Absolutely. Don’t risk doing it alone. Chances are even if you win your case by yourself, you probably won’t get all the damages you’re entitled to.
JLC attorneys were once in your shoes and faced housing discrimination. Let us guide you through the process and get you the justice you deserve.