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The Illinois Act takes its cues from the controlling federal Fair Housing Act of 1968. This Act was passed at the height of the civil rights movement. It was designed to prevent housing discrimination against certain protected classes, including race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability.    

What Is the Illinois Fair Housing Act?  

Illinois' Law for fair housing rights falls under the Illinois Human Rights Act. It follows the Fair Housing Act, or "FHA," but adds even further protections that will be discussed below.  

The Illinois act prohibits discrimination in real estate transactions. This includes a refusal to rent or sell and discriminatory practices in listing different prices for rentals or purchase points of a real estate transaction based on someone's protected class.    

What Is a Protected Class Under Illinois Law Under the Fair Housing Laws?  

Illinois has added protected classes to the FHA's outlined protected classes. Illinois prohibits housing discrimination against the following protected classes:  

  • Race  
  • Color  
  • Religion  
  • Sex  
  • Pregnancy  
  • National origin  
  • Ancestry  
  • Age discrimination over the age of 40  
  • Order of protection status  
  • Marital status  
  • Sexual orientation  
  • Gender-related identity    
  • Unfavorable military status discharge  
  • Physical disability  
  • Mental disability  
  • Familial status.  

Further, the City of Chicago adds parental status and source of income as a protected class. Chicago also has its own additional protections under the Chicago Fair Housing Ordinance and has its own agency to handle housing discrimination complaints. The City of Naperville also prohibits discrimination based on income. The City of Evanston also has its own guidelines.    


What Do the FHA And the Illinois Human Rights Act Cover?  

Almost any type of real estate property is covered under the FHA and the Illinois Act, including but not limited to: condos, single-family houses, apartments, mobile home parks, vacant land, and other types of residential real estate property. Illinois also prohibits discrimination in commercial real estate transactions in addition to the federal guidelines.    

What Types of Properties Are Excluded from the FHA And Illinois Protections?  

  • Single-family residences are sold or rented by an owner without using a real estate agent  
  • Housing that religious groups operate  
  • Private clubs limit occupancy by private membership.  
  • Owner-occupied buildings with four units or less.    

What Are the Types of Illegal Discrimination That Are Prohibited by Illinois Law?  

Discrimination against protected classes can occur in some of the following ways:  

  • Refusal to participate in real estate transactions;  
  • Changing the terms of the transaction;  
  • Altering the premises by removing furnishings;  
  • Refusing to pass on a bona fide offer in a transaction;  
  • Purposefully misrepresenting that a property is no longer for sale or rent when the property is in fact for sale or rent;  
  • Accepting, offering, advertising, or retaining a real estate listing knowing that it is discriminatory;  
  • Discriminatory lending or mortgage practices by a financial institution.  

This list is not intended to be exhaustive.    



Does Illinois Law Protect People with Children?  

Illinois law does offer exceptional protection for people with children participating in real estate transactions. In Illinois, it is illegal to discriminate against people with children in the following ways:  

  • A landlord to require a tenant not to have children under 18 years of age at the time of application;  
  • Have a clause in the lease that will cause termination of the lease if children come to live on the property;  
  • Refusing to rent or sell to a pregnant person, persons participating in the adoption process or obtaining legal custody of a child, or to  
  • Restrict the number of children instead of the total number of occupants on a property.    


Does The Illinois Human Rights Act Protect Persons with Disabilities from Discrimination in Real Estate Transactions?  

Yes, the Illinois Human Rights Act provides additional safeguards from discrimination in real estate transactions and the other provision provided in the Act. These provisions include but are not limited to the following:  

  • Discriminating in the selling provisions or rental terms to persons with disabilities;  
  • Refusal to conduct a real estate transaction, whether it be renting or buying, with persons that are blind, hearing impaired, or persons that require service animals;  
  • A refusal to provide reasonable accommodations of a property occupied by disabled persons.    



Does The FHA And the Illinois Human Rights Act Protect Those with Emotional Service Animals?  

Yes, the FHA does provide that housing providers cannot discriminate against those with service and emotional support animals. Since federal law controls, Illinois also has the same protections as the FHA.  

In January 2020, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") issued guidance that persons with disabilities seeking protection from the FHA laws should be entitled to reasonable accommodations of having a service and or emotional support animal with fear of discrimination from housing providers. However, since HUD has issued guidance, it does not have the force of Law.  

Still, it has been established that housing providers can determine if the service or support animal is bona fide as a reasonable accommodation under the FHA for persons with disabilities.    

Is There a Distinction Between Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals?  

Under HUD guidelines, there is a distinction between service animals and support animals. Emotional support animals are referred to as assistance animals under the guidelines but are similar.    

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), a service animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. This includes physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual's disability." The dog's function may or may not be apparent, but if it performs work or tasks on behalf of a person with a disability, it is a service dog.  


What Is a Support Animal Under the HUD Guidelines?  

Support animals can provide emotional support for people with mental or physical disabilities that limit at least one significant life activity or bodily function. Unlike a service animal, a support animal is not trained to do tasks or perform work. They do provide therapeutic support to people with many different types of conditions.    

These guidelines are necessary for housing providers to determine who has a legitimate service or support dog. Pet deposits and fees are not required for service or support dogs. Many unscrupulous people will use their pets and claim them as service or support dogs to avoid paying pet deposits and fees.    


If you have any further questions regarding fair housing rights in Illinois, don't hesitate to get in touch with one of our experienced housing lawyers at (312) 736-1384 or email them Our Chicago office is located:  

505 N. LaSalle Dr. Ste. 500A,  

Chicago, IL 60654

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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