Cook County adopted the Just Housing Ordinance (“JHO”) on April 25th, 2019 and turned the multi-family housing industry on its head, placing substantial restrictions on the use of criminal background checks in the tenant screening process.

After considerable negotiations and hearings, the Rules that govern the Just Housing Ordinance were finalized on November 21, 2019. Those Rules establish an entirely new procedure for tenant screening, with bifurcated background checks, numerous notices and disclosures to applicants, and an “individualized assessment” of applicants who have convictions within three years of the application date.

 

What You Need To Know

The Just Housing Ordinance takes effect on December 31, 2019 for all rental units in Cook County However, a grace period within the rules prohibits the Commission on Human Rights from enforcing penalties under the Ordinance until after January 31, 2020.

Associations: Community associations in Cook County will be required to comply with the Ordinance when renting an association-owned unit or a unit in collections, and many Cook County associations will be required to revise their leasing rules in compliance with the Ordinance. All Cook County associations should have forms and policies drafted by December 31, 2019 and adopt new leasing rules, if necessary, by January 31, 2020. Failure to do so may result in violations and penalties, so preparing now is crucial.


Landlords:
 All Cook County properties should have forms and policies in place by December 31, 2019 and have all staff training completed by January 31, 2020. Failure to do so may result in violations and penalties, so preparing now is crucial.

Requirements

 

To comply with the procedures established in the Just Housing Ordinance, even before accepting an application fee, a landlord must first issue the prospective tenant a notice which includes specific disclosures. The landlord may then run preliminary investigations into all aspects of the application, except criminal background. If the tenant is “pre-qualified,” then the landlord must send the prospective tenant notice that the criminal background check will be run. Upon receiving and reviewing the applicant’s criminal history, if the applicant has criminal convictions within three years from the application date, the landlord cannot outright deny the applicant despite the severity of the crime. Instead, the landlord must provide the criminal background check to the applicant and allow the applicant a specific time in which to submit documents to dispute the conviction history. Whether or not the applicant submits such documentation, the landlord must also perform an “individualized assessment” of the applicant, considering numerous factors outlined in the Rules. Only after performing all of these steps may the landlord choose to deny an applicant who has convictions in the three years prior to the application date which pose a “demonstrable risk” of harm to personal safety or to property in the rental community.


What You Need To Do To Comply With the Just Housing Ordinance

Associations
: Cook County associations must ensure that when renting an association-owned unit, or a unit where possession is obtained in a collection action, their tenant screening process is in compliance with the Just Housing Ordinance and the proper notices are issued at each step.
Further, the Board should review the Association’s leasing rules and, if the Association requires leasing owners to submit a Crime Free Addendum, whether that Addendum violates the requirements of the Ordinance.

Landlords:
 Many larger tenant screening companies are aware of the Just Housing Ordinance and are taking steps to bifurcate the screening process to assist multi-family housing providers in complying with the new Rules.   However, landlords must adopt policies in line with the Just Housing Ordinance’s requirements, implement forms, and train staff on the new tenant screening process established by the Just Housing Ordinance – by January 31, 2020.
How Can KSN Help You?
KSN is offering a package of comprehensive legal services at a reasonable flat rate to meet the needs of our clients. This includes:
  • Preparation of proper notices, disclosures, and forms
  • Review and revision of rental application and screening policy
  • Guidance in adopting on-site procedures

Call 855-537-0500 or visit www.ksnlaw.com to get started.

This article is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By reading this article you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the article author. This article should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state. © 2019 Kovitz Shifrin Nesbit, A Professional Corporation.