Clarified Process and Sample Notice Forms Required under the Just Housing Ordinance
February 7, 2020
The Cook County Commission on Human Rights made waves in 2019 when it adopted the Just Housing Ordinance (“Ordinance”) which changed how and when housing providers can inquire about a prospective tenant’s covered criminal history. The Ordinance, which took effect on December 31, 2019, added several requirements for housing providers (including landlords and condominium and community associations) and applies to any association that requests background checks as part of the sales process.
The procedural requirements of the Ordinance are rigid and nuanced; however, the Cook County Commission on Human Rights (“Commission”) has provided clarification in recent weeks on both the applicant screening process and required notices.
To shed light on this new process, this is an eight-step summary of the process that housing providers should follow in order to comply with the Ordinance. Remember though, if your condominium or community association does not require criminal background checks from prospective tenants, owners or residents, you do not need to adjust current practices to comply with the Ordinance.
Step 1 – Notice of Applicant Selection Criteria: Before accepting an application fee, the housing provider sends a notice to the applicant, including:
(a) the applicant selection criteria and a description of the evaluation process;
(b) that the applicant has a right “to provide evidence demonstrating inaccuracies within the applicant’s conviction history, or evidence of rehabilitation and other mitigating factors[.]”; and
(c) a copy of Part 700 of the Commission’s procedural rules (provided here at Attachment I) or a link to the Commission’s website (https://www.cookcountyil.gov/agency/commission-human-rights-0) with the address and phone number of the Commission.
Step 2 – Pre-Qualification: The housing provider reviews all applicant criteria except for the applicant’s criminal history/background check and determines whether the applicant “pre-qualifies”. All criteria except for the criminal background check are satisfied in this step.
Step 3 – Notice of Pre-Qualification: The housing provider sends a written notice to the applicant that they have pre-qualified and a criminal background check will be performed.
Step 4 – Conduct Criminal Background Check: The housing provider conducts the criminal background check. It must be limited to convictions from within the 3 years from the applicant date or the current registered sex offender or child sex offender residency restriction status.
Step 5 – Send Right to Dispute Notice and Criminal Background Check to Applicant: Within 5 days of receiving the completed criminal background check, the housing provider sends a copy to the applicant along with the Notice of Right to Dispute Accuracy or Relevance (“Right to Dispute Notice”). The copy of the background check and notice must be delivered in person or by certified mail or electronic communication. E-mail or text qualify as such.
A sample Right to Dispute Notice from the Commissioner is provided here as Attachment II.
Step 6 – Applicant’s Right to Dispute: Upon receipt of the Right to Dispute Notice and criminal background check, the applicant has 5 business days to dispute the accuracy or relevance of the convictions in the criminal background check.
Step 7 – Individualized Assessment: Within three business days of receiving the dispute notice and corresponding evidence from the applicant, the housing provider must conduct an “individualized assessment.” This assessment, based on the criminal background check and disputing evidence from the applicant, determines whether the applicant poses a “demonstrable risk of harm to personal safety and/or property”. If there is no demonstrable risk, the housing provider accepts the applicant.
Step 8 – Notice of Denial: If the applicant poses a demonstrable risk, the housing provider must issue a written Notice of Denial. The Notice must be sent to the applicant that explain the reason the denial is “necessary to protect against demonstrable risk of harm to personal safety or property.” It must also state that the applicant has a right to file a complaint with the Commission and be issued within three business days of receipt of evidence from the applicant.
A sample Notice of Denial from the Commissioner is provided here as Attachment III.
As always, LP’s Community Association Group is available to provide legal guidance to condominium and community association boards regarding best practices for complying with the Just Housing Ordinance. This includes implementing sound procedures for prospective tenant or purchaser applications and background checks (including leasing of units by the association as a landlord) that are in compliance with applicable law.
Filed under: Community Association
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