CHICAGO (CBS) — People looking to rent a place in Illinois and in Chicago, in particular, are getting some new protections and may soon get even more relief when it comes to landlords checking their criminal backgrounds and civil court case histories.
In Cook County, a Just Housing Amendment to the Human Rights Ordinance passed in 2019 and took effect on February 1, 2020. The Amendment prevents landlords from considering an applicant’s criminal background until after the potential renter has been approved based on other criteria including income, credit score and whether or not they have pets.
Although that ordinance covers the city of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot, says she wants the Chicago City Council to adopt a similar measure, providing the same protections for would-be renters.
Tenants may also get more help from the Illinois State Legislature.
State Senator Jacqueline Collins, Democrat from the 16th District, is a co-sponsor on SB0077. The Bill would change the Eviction Article in the state’s Civil Procedure Code. The legislation would allow for the sealing of all eviction cases currently underway until a final order of eviction is entered in favor the of the plaintiff and/or against the defendant. It would also only keep those unsealed records available to the public for seven years. After that, only certain people such as the parties involved in the case and their attorneys, anyone who can name specific details about the case, someone who lives at the home or apartment who can provide at least one name and others who receive a special court order to get the information. Otherwise, eviction records older than seven years would remain sealed.
Sen. Collins says having an eviction case on your record is a serious obstacle to finding affordable housing, especially for low-income renters or people who lost a job and struggled to make rent payments on time. “They might have been late in a payment but were able to resolve that with a landlord. So, there’s no reason why that should still be on their record because that precludes them from pursuing housing in the future,” she said.
The Illinois House has a similar, but broader measure under consideration. Rep. Delia Ramirez, Democrat from the 4th District, introduced HB2299 to mandate the sealing of eviction proceedings, in some cases, even when the court enters a judgment. The bill would also mandate the sealing of eviction records after three years, unless the case involves a commercial property or condominium unit. An aide to Rep. Ramirez told CBS 2 that a new version of this bill is coming soon.