Help With Landlord Screening Criminal History in Cook County | Gardi & Haught, Ltd.

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Help With Landlord Screening Criminal History in Cook County

Help With Landlord Screening Criminal History in Cook County

By Michael DeSantis

If you are a landlord in Cook County, be aware that there is an ordinance that went into effect concerning the way landlords are screening criminal history of potential tenants.  Now, before screening the prospective tenant’s criminal history, housing providers must first check their credit and rental history, income, etc. The purpose of the ordinance is to prohibit housing discrimination based on an individual’s criminal history and affects all owners, lessors, sublessors, assignors, agents, brokers or any other individuals or corporations who rent or lease residential properties in Cook County.

The amendment to the § 42-38 (Housing) of the Cook County Human Rights Code, known as the “Just Housing Amendment,” is now being enforced  and the requirements for housing providers have been clearly outlined. First, landlords must provide the potential tenant a notice with the tenant selection criteria, the applicant’s rights regarding their conviction history, and a copy of the Part 700 of the Commission’s procedural rules or a link to the website of the Cook County Commission on Human Rights. with the address and phone number of the Commission.

After the housing provider evaluates the applicant’s financials and the tenant is found to be financially qualified or pre-qualified to rent, the landlord can proceed to screen their “criminal background.” However, a landlord may not consider :Anything related to criminal convictions that are more than 3 years old

• Anything related to criminal convictions that are more than 3 years old
• Arrest, charge or citation records without conviction;
• Participation in a diversion or deferral of judgment program
• Records of offenses that has been sealed, expunged, or pardoned in accordance with applicable law; (4) or juvenile records and conviction.

So does that mean landlords are required to rent their property to everyone with a history of criminal convictions? No. But it will be more difficult to screen applicants as there is a specific process to follow, and time limits as you move through each phase of the process.

There are different requirements for denying potential tenants based on sex offender registration requirements and residency restrictions. However, if a housing provider wants to deny tenancy based on a criminal conviction (outside of the restrictions above) they must perform an individualized assessment of the conviction. This means they must carefully evaluate the conviction and its possible impact on fulfilling their duties as tenant, considering different factors. The factors to consider are numerous and very detailed, including things like the nature of the sentencing, the length of time since the conviction, evidence of rehabilitation, etc.  To deny tenancy, the assessment must reveal that the conviction history presents a “demonstrable risk to personal safety and/or property of others affected by the transaction,” as allowed in the ordinance.

Timing is everything. For example, a housing provider must deliver a copy of any background check done on a prospective tenant within five days of receiving it, and the applicant has five business days to provide any disputing evidence. Then the housing provider has three (3) business days from receipt of the dispute information to accept or deny the application.

Because of the new complexity of applying the Just Housing Amendment, Gardi & Haught, Ltd. is ramping up its tenant screening services to help landlords follow the law and also protect themselves from renting to any applicants that  pose a “demonstrable risk” to the other tenants. Our legal expertise is helpful to landlords in performing background checks, individual assessments before denial, and managing the denial process. We can help prospective landlords meet all established deadlines and help protect against any legal action that a prospective tenant may possibly take. If you have questions or wish to discuss your rights in the rental process within Cook County, contact our landlord/tenant attorneys to discuss your case today by clicking on our free case evaluation button below.

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