Landlords oppose new rules for renting to those with criminal histories

Landlords now will have to justify rejecting a tenant with a criminal history

Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson (Credit: iStock)
Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson (Credit: iStock)

Cook County landlords will have new rules for renting to tenants with a criminal history under a new county ordinance opposed by the real estate industry.

Federal rules already ban landlords from denying a rental application solely because of a criminal record. Under the new county ordinance approved Thursday, apartment owners won’t be able to consider applicants’ criminal backgrounds until after they already have qualified through a credit check or other screening, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The new ordinance says landlords will have to conduct an “individualized assessment” showing that denial based on the conviction “is necessary to protect against a demonstrable risk to personal safety and/or property of others.” The county will now have six months to draw up specifics for how that assessment process must work.

The new measure doesn’t apply to sex offenders, who still can be rejected.

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Commissioner Brandon Johnson, the ordinance’s sponsor, said it will end “discrimination against families and returning citizens who have been plagued and haunted by the vestiges of Jim Crow.”

But Chicagoland Apartment Association Executive Vice President Michael Mini told Crain’s the new rules will make the screening take longer and cost more, discouraging some landlords from doing background checks and confusing them about how to comply.

“Creating a second set of overlapping rules with the Just Housing Ordinance at the county level will cause logistical confusion and added costs, neither of which help to increase Cook County’s needed supply of available affordable housing,” Mini said in a statement.

Only Republican commissioners Pete Silvestri and Sean Morrison voted against the ordinance. [Chicago Tribune] — John O’Brien