Can a Landlord Deny a Tenant for Their Sexual Orientation?

Can a Landlord Refuse to Rent to an LGBT Tenant in Illinois? LGBT Housing Law Explained

Article written by Illinois & Iowa Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
October 28, 2019

In this article, we will explore housing discrimination laws in Illinois based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  We will answer the question: “can a landlord deny a tenant based on sexual orientation?” We will also discuss legal protections from housing discrimination in Illinois and how to prove housing discrimination in Illinois.

For more on general Illinois Tenant Rights, see our article Tenants Rights Explained.

Can a Landlord Deny a Tenant based Sexual Orientation?

In the federal discrimination law, The Fair Housing Act, sexual orientation is not explicitly stated as a protected class. Although the Civil Rights Act and Fair Housing Act have been cited in federal LGBTQ discrimination cases, the law has not been updated to include these direct protections for LGBTQ people in the United States in the words of the law.  So, on a federal level, the fight to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is still ongoing.  

Even though protection for housing rights of LGBTQ people is not directly enforced in federal law, several states and cities have their own laws protecting their LGBT citizens.  Illinois is one of only a few states to explicitly state that a person may not be discriminated against for their sexual orientation or gender identity.  This extends directly to landlords, rental agencies, and any employee who is responsible for rental decisions for property in Illinois.  By state law, a landlord cannot deny a person simply because they are part of the LGBTQ community - and can face consequences if they do.  They also cannot alter their prices, offers or services because of the sexuality of their client.  The City of Chicago also has its own anti-discrimination protections.  Chicago has an Anti-Discrimination Ordinance as well as a Fair Housing Ordinance that both directly state protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and marital status, which also comes with its own set on consequences.  

Protections from Housing Discrimination in Illinois

Illinois law protects potential property owners, tenants, and renters from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.  There are several practices and behaviors that are prohibited by this law, including but not limited to the following:

  • Changing prices.
  • Offering or altering offered services.
  • Refusing to sell real estate or rent property.
  • Implementing unique restrictions or rules in a lease.
  • Issuing threats, coercion or other forceful or intimidating tactics.
  • Asking for sexual favors in exchange for services or payment changes.

How to Prove Housing Discrimination in Illinois

If you believe you have faced discrimination based on your sexual orientation, gender identity, or any protected class, you have a legal right to take the matter to court.  Proving a person’s intent can be hard, but there are steps you can take to best build a case on your behalf.  

  • Search for Direct Evidence: If you can find direct evidence such as social media posts or letters that the person you are accusing holds negative views towards LGBT people or other protected classes, this will be a big step towards proving your case.  

  • Avoid Conflict and Confrontation: It would be in your best interest to avoid conflicting with the person you are accusing if you can.  This can only escalate the problems and possible put you in a situation that will only further hinder your living situation.  

  • Look Into Other Tenants: If you believe you are facing discrimination, one way to build confirmation is to see how other tenants are treated.  Are there other LGBTQ tenants who are facing similar issues?  Are there straight or cisgender tenants who are getting services or prices you are not getting yourself?  These may be starting points to look in to. Again, it may be best to avoid direct conflict if tenants are not willing to work with you.

  • Prove that You Are Protected: In order to argue a discrimination case, you have to prove that (1) you are part of a protected class and (2) that the person you are accusing treated you differently because of that class.  This is the most complex and difficult aspect to prove in a discrimination case and it would most likely be extremely beneficial to involve a Property Attorney or Civil Rights Attorney on your behalf.  

Discrimination laws protecting LGBT citizens are an ongoing change at the state and federal level. It is recommended that you look in to your state and local laws to see what rights are afforded to you.

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Protections from Housing Discrimination in Illinois

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