Source of Income Discrimination
Frequently Asked Questions
The Illinois Human Rights Act was expanded to provide protection against discrimination related to source of income in the area of housing and real estate transactions, effective January 2023. Explore the frequently asked questions below to learn more.
- General Source of Income Discrimination Questions
- Non-Discrimination Based on Source of Income Questions
- Proof of Income Questions
- Compliance with Housing Subsidy Program Standards Questions
- Credit, Security Deposit, and Fee Questions
- Reporting Discrimination: Filing a Charge for Source of Income Discrimination
- Miscellaneous Questions
General Source of Income Discrimination Questions
- 1. What is the Illinois Human Rights Act?
- 2. How does the Illinois Human Rights Act protect Illinoisans from housing discrimination based on their source of income?
- 3. What does source of income mean?
- 4. What are examples of a person’s source of income that are protected from discrimination under the Illinois Human Rights Act?
- 5. What are examples of possible source of income discrimination under the Illinois Human Rights Act?
- 6. Does the Illinois Human Rights Act protect existing tenants from housing discrimination based on their source of income?
- 7. What are the consequences if a housing provider unlawfully discriminates based on source of income?
- 8. What are some best practices housing providers can follow to avoid unlawfully discriminating against an applicant based on their source of income?
The Illinois Human Rights Act is a state law that prohibits discrimination in housing, employment, places of public accommodation, financial credit, and education in the state of Illinois. The Illinois Department of Human Rights investigates cases of discrimination under the Act. If the Department finds evidence of discrimination, a case will be filed with the Illinois Human Rights Commission to decide whether discrimination occurred.
The Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination against a person based on their source of income when renting an apartment, buying a home, applying for a mortgage, or receiving housing-related services. The Act also prohibits real estate brokers and appraisers from discriminating against a person based on their source of income.
A person who believes that they experienced discrimination because of their source of income may report the incident to the Illinois Department of Human Rights. For more information on how to start the process. (See Question 23 below ("How does a person report discrimination to the Illinois Department of Human Rights?").
In the Illinois Human Rights Act, Source of Income means “the lawful manner by which an individual supports himself or herself and his or her dependents.”
In other words, a person’s source of income is how they received the money to pay for housing or housing related services.
Common sources of income protected under the Illinois Human Rights Act include:
- Income from employment.
- Housing Choice Vouchers (also known as Section 8).
- Federal, state, local, or private housing assistance.
- Emergency housing assistance payments.
- Spousal maintenance and child support.
- Retirement income.
- Veterans benefits.
- Social Security retirement benefits.
- Social Security Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
- Preferring tenants with employment income over tentants with other sources of income.
- Discouraging applicants with non-employment income from applying to rent
- Advertising or making statements such as “No Section 8” or similar limitations
- Screening out applicants receiving Social Security or other government assistance
- Rejecting applicants who cannot provide paystubs or W2 forms
- Refusing to process, or delaying, a person’s application because they intend to use a Housing Choice Voucher
- Rejecting housing applicants because they rely on child support payments
- Refusing to rent to someone because they are employed seasonally or part-time
- Falsely telling an applicant that a property is not available because the landlord wants to rent to another person with a different source of income
- Charging higher fees or requiring different terms and conditions because a person receives income from non-employment sources
Yes. The Illinois Human Rights Act protects both new applicants and existing tenants.
If an existing tenant obtains a voucher, or other new source of income, the housing provider must accept the new source of income and must take steps to meet any program requirements to accept the income, such as allowing an inspection.
A housing provider that discriminates based on source of income may be found liable and be required to do the following: cease-and-desist discriminating; pay actual damages to compensate for loss or injury; pay other damages; pay civil penalties; and pay attorney’s fees.
Screen applicants on a case-by-case basis rather than by their source of income.
- Do not advertise a preference for certain types of sources of income.
- Do not give preference to one source of income over another.
- Do not steer applicants with non-employment sources of income to different properties than would be shown to applicants with employment income.
- Apply rental standards and qualifications uniformly and equally to all applicants.
- Ensure rental standards and qualifications are reasonable.
- Know the minimum quality standards for Housing Choice Voucher housing.
Non-Discrimination Based on Source of Income Questions
- 9. Can a housing provider ask about a person’s source of income?
- 10. Can a housing provider give greater preference to market-rate applicants over subsidized applicants?
- 11. Can a housing provider give greater preference to subsidized applicants over market-rate applicants?
- 12. Can a housing provider give greater preference to one housing subsidy program over another housing subsidy program?
- 13. Can a housing provider refuse to accept one-time grants or other types of housing assistance?
Yes. Housing providers may ask applicants and tenants about the sources of their income for the limited purposes of determining their ability to pay rent and verifying the accuracy of the information provided. However, the housing provider may not prefer one source of income over another.
If a housing provider asks about an applicant’s source of income, then the housing provider must ask the same questions of all applicants.
No. Housing providers must accept applicants who receive housing assistance. The Illinois Human Rights Act requires housing providers to treat all applicants and tenants equally regardless of their source of income.
No. Housing providers must accept applicants who do not receive housing assistance. The Illinois Human Rights Act requires housing providers to treat all applicants and tenants equally regardless of their source of income.
No. Accepting only some vouchers or programs violates the Illinois Human Rights Act. This is true even if certain programs require more paperwork, pay a lower fee to the broker, or involve longer processing times.
Housing providers must treat all applicants and tenants equally regardless of their source of income. Any type of monetary assistance intended to help with paying rent, security deposits, move-in fees, etc., is covered by the Illinois Human Rights Act.
A housing provider may only refuse to accept one-time grants or other assistance if they have, or genuinely would have, rejected the same cash value from other sources of income.
A housing provider may consider other non-discriminatory factors in determining whether to accept housing assistance, including payment history and ability to pay the rent for the term of the lease.
Proof of Income Questions
- 14. Can housing providers require tenants and applicants to provide proof of income?
- 15. Can housing providers deny applicants because they do not earn enough income?
Yes. A housing provider can require proof of income so long as they accept proof of non-employment income (such as social security, disability benefits, or Housing Choice Vouchers) in the same manner as proof of employment income (such as paystubs, W2 forms, and tax returns).
Housing providers may not use information about income in a way that has a discriminatory effect on applicants and tenants based on their source of income.
Yes. The Illinois Human Rights Act does not prohibit housing providers from requiring proof that tenants have enough income to pay the rent. However, the income standard must be reasonable.
Housing providers may not use an income standard that has the effect of excluding persons receiving housing subsidies. Housing subsidies are provided to low-income housing applicants. Thus, unreasonable income requirements may effectively discriminate against people who have been found eligible for Housing Choice Vouchers or other housing subsidies.
Housing providers must only consider the tenant’s or applicant’s portion of the rent when using a minimum income standard. If a person has a Housing Choice Voucher, then the granting agency has already determined that the person is qualified to pay their portion of the rent.
For example, imagine that a unit is advertised for $2,000, for which the housing provider requires an applicant's income to be three times (3X) the rent amount. If an applicant has a housing subsidy that pays $1,500 directly to the housing provider, then the applicant would only pay $500 per month directly.
In this example, the housing provider may only require the applicant to have a non-subsidized income of $1,500 per month in addition to the rent subsidy. The housing provider may not require the applicant to have a non-subsidized income of $6,000 per month.
Compliance with Housing Subsidy Program Standards Questions
- 16. Are housing providers required to prepare their properties to be compliant with Housing Choice Voucher quality standards before receiving applications ?
- 17. Are housing providers required to lower the rent to allow a subsidized tenant to rent the unit?
- 18. Can a housing provider outright refuse to accept Housing Choice Vouchers or similar subsidies that require third-party approval and inspections?
No. A housing provider is not required to modify their property to comply with Housing Choice Voucher, or similar subsidy program, quality standards until they become aware that an otherwise qualified applicant intends to use a voucher or similar subsidy.
The purpose of Housing Choice Vouchers and similar subsides is to provide decent, safe, and sanitary affordable housing. Housing providers should be familiar with quality standards and be prepared to pass an initial inspection by the housing authority overseeing the subsidy upon short notice – generally within 2 weeks.
Common deficiencies found in quality standard inspections include damaged walls and doors, electrical hazards, lead paint, broken smoke detectors, and pests.
The Housing Choice Voucher quality standards can be a valuable roadmap for all housing providers as to the minimum standards to ensure a clean and safe living environment.
No. A housing provider is not required to lower their rent to accommodate applicants using Housing Choice Vouchers or other subsidized applicants. However, a housing provider may not increase their rent to avoid renting to subsidized applicants.
The local public housing agency determines whether the rent requested by the housing provider for a Housing Choice Voucher rental assistance household is reasonable. Critical market factors that impact rent are considered, such as the location, quality, size, unit age and type, and any amenities.
No. Housing providers may not outright refuse to rent or sell to applicants with housing subsidies that require the housing provider to take additional steps to utilize the subsidy.
The Illinois Human Rights Act requires housing providers to treat all applicants and tenants equally regardless of their source of income. Equal treatment means that persons with Housing Choice Vouchers and other subsidies must be given a fair opportunity to use those sources of income to pay for their housing.
A housing provider may not make discriminatory advertisements or statements, such as “Section 8 not accepted” or “market rate tenants only.”
A housing provider may not use the source of the income as a factor in the application or screening process. If a subsidized applicant is ready and willing to rent the property but the property requires third-party approval, then the housing provider must cooperate with the review and approval process – including making the property available to inspection and making any reasonable repairs necessary to comply with minimum quality standards.
Credit, Security Deposit, and Fee Questions
- 19. Can housing providers require security deposits, application fees, or move-in fees?
- 20. Can housing providers run credit checks?
- 21. Can housing providers require a minimum credit score for renting an apartment?
Yes. A housing provider may require a reasonable security deposit and reasonable fees if they are equally applied to all applicants and tenants regardless of their source of income.
A housing provider may not charge different fees for subsidized tenants than they do for market rate tenants.
Yes. The Illinois Human Rights Act does not prohibit a housing provider from checking a tenant’s credit history if the same standards are equally applied to all tenants regardless of their source of income.
Housing providers may not run credit checks for some tenants and not others.
Yes. The Illinois Human Rights Act generally does not prohibit housing providers from requiring tenants to have a minimum credit score. However, a minimum credit score requirement may violate the Illinois Human Rights Act if it has a discriminatory effect on applicants based on their source of income or other protected characteristics.
Housing providers should consider an applicant’s credit on a case-by-case basis to avoid discrimination. If an applicant does not have sufficient credit, the housing provider should consider the applicant’s housing payment history, bill payment history, and similar evidence of the applicant’s likelihood of paying rent on time.
Housing providers who reject tenants with subsidies that cover 100% of the rent becuase they did not meet minimum credit score criteria may be liable for source of income discrimination.
Reporting Discrimination: Filing a Charge for Source of Income Discrimination
- 22. What can a person do if they are experiencing discrimination because of their source income?
- 23. How does a person report discrimination to the Illinois Department of Human Rights?
- 24. What can I do to prepare to report an incident of discrimination and support the investigation?
- 25. Does the Illinois Department of Human Rights accommodate persons with disabilities?
- 26. Do I need to speak English to report discrimination?
- 27. Do I need to be a Permanent Resident or U.S. Citizen to report discrimination?
- 28. Do I need to hire an attorney to file a report discrimination?
- 29. Is there a fee to report discrimination?
- 30. What can be done if someone threatens me to prevent me from reporting discrimination or to prevent me from cooperating with the investigation?
A person experiencing source of income discrimination may report the incident to the Illinois Department of Human Rights within one year .
Alternatively, the person may file a lawsuit in state court within two years, whether or not they reported the alleged discrimination to the Illinois Department of Human Rights.
A person who believes they have been discriminated against by a housing provider based on their source of income may file a charge with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) by submitting a completed intake form.
1) The best first step is to access the IDHR intake form (Complainant Information Sheet) on our website and complete it to the best of your ability.
2) Submit your intake form (Complainant Information Sheet) in any of the following ways:
- By email: send your form to the IDHR Fair Housing Division at IDHR.FairHousing@illinois.gov
- By postal mail, send your form to: IDHR, 555 W Monroe St, Ste 700, Chicago, IL 60661
- By fax, send your form to (312) 814-6251.
- For an in-person filing, contact IDHR online or at (312) 814-6202 to schedule a visit or to obtain directions to our Chicago or Springfield offices.
- When searching for housing, keep detailed notes of your interactions.
- Take photos or screenshots of advertisements immediately.
- Save all your text messages and e-mails in a safe place (not just on your phone).
- Report possible discrimination to the Illinois Department of Human Rights.
Yes. The Illinois Department of Human Rights provides assistance to anyone who needs help accessing and understanding our information. Please contact us to arrange an accommodation if you are a person with a disability.
- Call 312-814-6262 (voice), 866-740-3953 (TTY)
- Email IDHR.ADA@illinois.gov
No. The Illinois Department of Human Rights will provide an interpreter. You may also bring a support person of your choice to interviews.
No. Anyone who believes that they have been discriminated against in the state of Illinois because of a protected basis, such as source of income, can report the incident and file a charge of discrimination.
The Illinois Department of Human Rights does not collect information about immigration status unless the person is claiming discrimination based on their immigration status.
No. An attorney is not required to process a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR). However, an attorney may represent a person or party at any stage of the process. IDHR does not refer complainants to attorneys in private practice but does maintain lists of legal aid associations and other organizations that may represent complainants in discrimination cases.
No. There is no fee to report the incident and file a charge with the Illinois Department of Human Rights.
It is unlawful to retaliate against or to intimidate any person for reporting discrimination or for participating in an investigation through the Illinois Department of Human Rights. It is also unlawful to retaliate against or to intimidate any person because that person reported a discriminatory practice to a housing provider or other authority.
If you believe that you have experienced retaliation or intimidation, contact the Illinois Department of Human Rights immediately to file a charge.
For more information on how to report discrimination, See Question 23 ("How does a person report discrimination to the Illinois Department of Human Rights?").
- 31. What is “Housing Choice Voucher” rental assistance? What is a “VASH voucher”?
- 32. How are Housing Choice Voucher rental assistance tenants screened by the housing authority?
- 33. Is income received from a state authorized cannabis business considered an acceptable source of income discrimination?
- 34. Where can I get more information if I don't see the answer to my question here?
Housing Choice Voucher rental assistance is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and is administered by a local public housing authority to help households with low income pay their rent. A tenant with a voucher pays a fixed portion of the rent and the program pays the remainder of the rent directly to the housing provider.
The HUD-VASH Program is a type of Housing Choice Voucher that aids veterans who are experiencing homelessness and their families. The program also includes case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
If you have a question about source of income discrimination not answered on this page:
If you have another question not related to source of income protections: