It is illegal for landlords to discriminate against people because of:
- National Origin
- Citizenship status
- Sexual orientation (including gender-related identity)
- Age (40 and over)
- Marital or Familial Status (having children)
- An order of protection
- Unfavorable military discharge
- Arrest record
If you are discriminated against for other reasons, you will usually not be able to make a claim for housing discrimination.
For more information on housing discrimination and citizenship status and national origin, please see the video on Your right to Fair Housing.
For a video on housing discrimination and sexual orientation, please see the following video on LGBT Rights and Fair Housing.
Common examples of housing discrimination
There are many ways landlords can discriminate. For example, the landlord could:
- Refuse to rent to you;
- Make an apartment harder to get;
- Mislead you about the availability of a rental unit;
- Have terms in the lease or put conditions on renting that they do not have for other people;
- Offer a reduction in rent in return for sexual favors;
- Make sexual advances or demands;
- Discriminate in the privileges, services or facilities provided at the apartment building or complex;
- Discriminate in advertising for the apartment;
- Threaten, coerce, intimidate, or interfere with you for exercising a fair housing right or assisting others who are exercising that right; or
- Deny you a reasonable accommodation.
Disabilities and housing discrimination
Landlords may not discriminate against people with disabilities. This includes people who:
- Have a physical or mental impairment which substantially hinders or impairs one or more of his or her major life activities;
- Have a record of such an impairment; or
- Are regarded as having such an impairment.
Examples of major life activities include caring for yourself, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, bathing, dressing, eating, interacting with others, reading, sitting, standing, sleeping, thinking, and concentrating.
The violation of any of these rights is housing discrimination:
- With certain exceptions, a landlord cannot legally ask whether you have a "handicap," or its nature or severity;
- The right to have a guide, hearing, or support dog;
- The right to make reasonable modifications to places they rent, if those modifications are necessary to let them use or enjoy the premises. Generally, landlords are not required to pay for these modifications, but they must allow them to be made at the expense of the tenant. If the building was financed with federal funds, however, the landlord must usually pay for the modifications. Examples of modifications include installation of a flashing light to enable a person with a hearing impairment to see that someone is ringing the doorbell; the construction of a ramp to enable a person in a wheelchair to enter the unit; the replacement of door knobs with lever handles for a person with severe arthritis; and
- The right to request reasonable accommodations from landlords. This means reasonable changes or exceptions in rules, policies, practices, or services, when this is necessary to allow a person with a disability an equal opportunity to use or enjoy the premises.
Filing a claim of housing discrimination
If you were the victim of housing discrimination, you can file a claim at one of the agencies below.
Each agency has different rules for the types of discrimination they handle, among other things. Learn more about Where to file a housing discrimination complaint.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): This is an option if the discriminatory action was made by the federal government.
Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR): If the discriminatory action happened in Illinois.
City of Chicago Commission on Human Relations: If the discriminatory action happened in Chicago.
Instead of filing with one of these agencies, you can file a complaint directly in state or federal court. This process often requires an attorney, and usually takes more time and money.
Proving housing discrimination
There are three ways to prove housing discrimination.
First, the most reliable way is to show direct evidence. This could be a statement by a landlord that they don't like people of a certain race, religion, ethnicity, or who have a disability.
Second is to show indirect evidence. This includes anything that suggests that the landlord was discriminating against you. This could be a statement or actions toward other tenants.
Third, discrimination may be proven by showing:
- You are a member of a "protected class" (see above);
- Your landlord harassed or treated you unfairly or differently based upon your protected class; and
- People outside of the protected class were treated better.
Time limit for filing a claim of housing discrimination
If you were the victim of housing discrimination, and you want to file with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR), or the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), you have one year from the last incident to file a claim. One claim may include different, separate incidents.
If you are filing with the Cook County Commission on Human Rights, or the City of Chicago Commission on Human Relations, you have 180 days from the last incident to file a claim.
Military personnel and housing discrimination in Chicago
Chicago has laws that protect people who are on active duty, people who are in any reserve component of any branch of any state or federal armed forces, and veterans. This includes discrimination based on military discharge status.
These protections help prevent discrimination for employment, public accommodations, credit transactions, bonding, and housing.
If a landlord will not rent to you because you're in the military, or if a landlord refuses to accept the G.I. Bill as payment for rent, you can file a complaint.
Similarly, if you were passed over for a job or a promotion because you are a current or former member of the military, you can file a complaint against the discriminating employer.
For more information about how to file a complaint, visit: Military Status Discrimination FAQs.
Updated: January 2017