The Illinois Human Rights Act now protects renters using non-wage sources of income. Your local REALTORS® have compiled the resources and information landlords need to remain compliant.
Beginning January 1, 2023, qualified renters cannot be turned away for using their Social Security, veteran housing benefits, vouchers, or other sources of non-wage income. Landlords who fail to accept these alternate sources of income could face a Fair Housing violation. The law now states there can be no discrimination based on a renter’s income or source of income. Your Local REALTOR® Association wants to inform and educate you about these changes in the law so you can respond properly and lawfully to this new class that is protected under the Illinois Human Rights Act.
In April, 2022, the Illinois legislature passed HB2775 which will amend the Illinois Human Rights Act to include Source of Income as a protected class. The law will go into effect on January 1, 2023. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, over half of Illinois households rely on non-wage income to assist with living expenses. While there are some regions in the state that already include Source of Income (SOI) as a protected class such as Cook County, for the vast majority of the State, this will become a new requirement for landlords.
For several decades legislation had been presented in Illinois’ General Assembly with regards to protecting source of income (SOI). Most often those bills had provisions within them that were simply not acceptable to Illinois REALTORS®, causing their staunch opposition. Frequently that language would have required landlords to participate in the Housing Choice Voucher program. And while Illinois REALTORS® supports the HCV program, IR also believes property owners should be allowed to otherwise qualify their tenants.
In the spring of 2022 when the legislation came to the floor again in Springfield, it included numerous amendments that went well beyond SOI as a protected class and had major implications for landlords.
Through the lobbying efforts of Illinois REALTORS®, these harmful additions were removed from the bill, which passed in a fashion that replicates SOI in Cook County. While SOI is now protected, investors still maintain their right to have other, legal qualifications that might preclude a HCV applicant from qualifying for a property.
Non-wage income includes:
Landlords are forced to accept voucher holders as tenants – Landlords are not forced to accept voucher clients over market rate tenants. A landlord must treat all applicants the same, providing screening criteria for HCV tenants similar to the screening criteria used for market rate tenants. The screening process, as always, must be in compliance with the Fair Housing Act and any local ordinance, such as the Just Housing Amendment (JHA).
Lastly, landlords are not forced to accept an offer for a rental property for an HCV tenant that is lower than the requested rent. If the PHA cannot reach the requested rental rate for a given unit, the landlord is not required to accept the offer.
SOI tenants, including housing voucher tenants, are problematic – Any tenant who is not properly screened can become a problem for a landlord. Landlords are encouraged to engage with their tenants and manage their properties like any professionally run business. This would entail proper and consistent screening in compliance with the Fair Housing Act, checking on the unit occasionally, keeping up with proper maintenance, and due diligence, just as a landlord would for market rate tenants.
Should problems arise, there are avenues that a PHA can take to assist the tenant back into compliance and to make the landlord whole. Additionally, voucher holders understand that a consequence of breaking conditions of a lease can include losing their voucher, which many families cannot afford to lose.
Paperwork and bureaucracy slow down the process – There is additional paperwork involved in leasing to voucher tenants and inspections are required. PHAs have worked hard to streamline the process. The entire process takes 30 days on average. For example, third party inspectors are able to perform inspections within three business days of the information being entered in the system (previous timeframe was 14-21 days). It should be noted that if a market rate tenant shows interest in a unit that is undergoing the HCV process and sits empty during that time, a landlord can screen that market rate individual for tenancy. Should the market rate client qualify for the unit with a bonafide offer and have the ability to occupy the unit more quickly than the voucher holder, a landlord can accept that tenant. As in all cases, the landlord should fully document the transaction in order to minimize fair housing issues.
HCV tenants can pay a higher portion of their contribution of the rent as calculated by the PHA – The tenants will pay roughly 30% of their adjusted monthly income while the PHA covers the remainder of the agreed upon rent. However, if a landlord is requesting a higher rent amount than what the PHA can pay, a voucher holder can pick up the difference and pay up to 40% of their adjusted monthly income. Please note, this is different than a side payment which is against program regulations.
Housing Choice Vouchers can be used to purchase a home – This is not a myth! Eligible HCV holders can utilize vouchers to assist in covering a portion of monthly mortgage payments. This assistance is available to eligible first-time homebuyers. Please contact your local PHA for further details regarding the Homeownership Program.
For more information concerning the HCV program and the HUD-VASH program for veterans, please contact your local housing authority.
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