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Just Housing Amendment - Are You Screening Correctly in Cook County/Chicago?

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What is this amendment & why was it passed? 

The Just Housing Amendment was passed on April 25, 2019 and amends the Human Rights Ordinance by providing protections for leasing applicants with a criminal record that apply for residential rentals.  The Amendment went into effect on January 1, 2020, and Cook County will start enforcement of the Amendment on February 1, 2020.

  • Advocates of this ordinance said this ordinance aims to “ensure that people with criminal records have equal access to housing opportunities in Cook County.”

  • This ordinance only impacts properties located in Cook County

  • The ordinance requires you to run a two-step screening process whereby you must screen credit, eviction, job/rental history, etc. before you screen their criminal background. 

  • You can only take into account criminal convictions that occurred less than 3 years ago in your analysis. All other convictions cannot be considered (unless convicted of a sex crime).

  • 4 new notices required during your screening procedures

Penalties

As of February 1, 2020, Cook County will be out with full enforcement against Landlords.  The penalties for non-compliance will be a fine between $100.00 to $500.00 for each offense, each day a violation continues.

What can you do to prepare?

  1. Remove any questions regarding criminal background checks from all marketing material, advertisements & applications

  2. Attend future seminars for training sponsored by your local landlord & builders clubs (example links below)

https://www.nboa.us/about-us/

https://rpbg.org/

https://gadachicago.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Real-Estate/SSCIA-280128272075362/

https://lincolnparkbuilders.com/

https://www.caapts.org/

  1. Hire a professional Property Management Firm to protect you against these new laws or ensure your current Property Manager is equipped to follow the new way of doing business.  

Additional Ordinance Details

  • New Disclosures for All Rental Applications

All landlords must now disclose to every applicant the following information, prior to accepting any application fee: (1) a description of the landlord’s tenant selection criteria; (2) the applicant’s right to dispute criminal history information in a background check and to provide evidence of rehabilitation or mitigation to the landlord; (3) a link to the Cook County Commission on Human Rights website, with its address and phone number.

  • Two-Step Screening Process

All landlords must now follow a two-step screening process, if considering any criminal history information in screening the applicant. In the first step (“Pre-Qualification”), the landlord determines whether an applicant satisfies its non-criminal selection criteria (credit score, income, rental history, etc.). The landlord must then notify the applicant if its pre-qualification standards have been met before screening for criminal history.

In the second step of the screening process, the landlord must deliver a copy of the criminal background check it obtains to the applicant within five days. The applicant is next given five business days to dispute the accuracy or relevance of the background check. The landlord then conducts an “individualized assessment” of the applicant based upon nine enumerated factors specified in the regulations and may only deny the applicant if its assessment shows that denial of the application is “necessary to protect against a demonstrable risk to the personal safety and/or property of others.” Any denial must: (1) be in writing; (2) provide an explanation of the landlord’s determination; and (3) advise the applicant of the right to file a complaint with the Commission.

  • Restrictions on Criminal History Information in Screening

Landlords may not base any adverse housing decision, in whole or in part, on criminal convictions that are more than three years old. Additionally, landlords may not consider an applicant’s arrest records, charges, expunged or sealed records, or juvenile records.

To learn more about the JHA process or how you can protect yourself better if you are a landlord in Cook County, please use the link below to set up a time to talk.  GC Realty & Development has learned all of the ins and outs of this amendment to the ordinance so we can help educate you or remove the risk you would otherwise have as a landlord or self-manager of your rental property.

You may also find these other great resources helpful: 

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