Housing discrimination is illegal, but it’s not always easy to prove. While the law prohibits something obvious like refusing to sell or rent a home on the basis of race, there are other, more subtle ways that discrimination can occur. And if you’ve been the victim of such treatment, you have the right to demand monetary damages.
The civil rights attorneys of Hale & Monico can help. We represent individuals and families who have been wrongfully discriminated against in their search for temporary or permanent housing. If you have questions or concerns over whether you were unfairly treated, reach out to us.
Housing Discrimination And The Law
Under both Illinois and federal law, discrimination in real estate transactions is illegal. This includes actions involving the sale or lease of temporary or permanent housing, such as refusing to rent an apartment. But it also includes discriminatory actions that may be less obvious. For example, it is illegal to discriminate against someone in the terms or price of a real estate transaction. That would include demanding someone pay a higher security deposit simply because of that individual’s race.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. Illinois law goes further. The Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on:
- Sex (including sexual harassment)
- National origin
- Age (40 and over)
- Order of protection status
- Marital status
- Sexual orientation (including gender-related identity)
- Unfavorable military discharge
- Physical and mental disability
- Familial status
The law applies to property owners, managers, brokers, salespersons, rental agents, and other agents or employees of the owner. Advertisers and mortgage lenders can also be held liable for engaging in discriminatory practices related to housing. Real estate transactions cover both residential and commercial properties, including houses, apartments, condominiums, mobile home parks, vacant land, other types of residential property, and commercial property.
How Does Housing Discrimination Happen?
Discriminatory landowners and others have developed numerous ways to attempt to deny fair housing to others. These are some examples of housing discrimination:
- Refusing to conduct a real estate transaction
- Unfavorable terms, conditions, or privileges included in the transaction or contract
- Refusing to accept or convey an offer in a real estate transaction (e.g. an agent refusing to tell the owner about an offer)
- Misrepresenting the availability of a piece of property for inspection, sale, or lease
- Failing to provide property listings
- Attempting to conspire with others to discriminate
- Improperly discouraging someone from a certain property or steering the person away from the property
- Discriminatory mortgage or lending practices
Discrimination can come in many related forms. For example, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of familial status, including because someone has children or is pregnant. A landlord cannot include provisions that prohibit a prospective tenant from having any children as a condition of renting an apartment. It would similarly be illegal to prohibit someone who is pregnant from renting.
How Is Housing Discrimination Proven?
Generally, there are two ways to demonstrate discrimination in housing. The first is the direct method. Here, an agent, owner, or another party explicitly admits to discriminating. This may be in the form of a statement expressly refusing to do business on the basis of a protected class (e.g. race), or, for example, a racially restrictive covenant contained in a real estate deed or contract. Examples like these are relatively rare.
The more common method of proving housing discrimination is by indirect evidence. This means comparing your treatment to those of others to show that you were discriminated against. However, it will be up to the victim to prove initially that he or she was in fact treated unfairly. Also, the party accused of discrimination will have the chance to defend themselves by providing an alternative reason (other than discrimination) for the disparate treatment.
Proving that the alternative reason for the treatment was in fact discriminatory is difficult. Every house and apartment unit is different, and there are numerous factors that go into every real estate transaction. The accused party will attempt to give an explanation that something other than unlawful discrimination accounts for how the victim was treated.
Hale & Monico Is Here For You
That’s where having an experienced housing discrimination attorney is critical. At Hale & Monico, we understand housing laws in Illinois and have used them to prove that our clients were unlawfully discriminated against. If you suspect that you’ve been treated unfairly in housing, the first step you should take is to document as much as possible about the discrimination as you can. That includes any direct evidence from the discriminatory party or anything more indirect that shows you were treated differently.
When you retain us, we get to work investigating the discrimination and obtaining the evidence needed to prove it. That may include talking with witnesses, as well as using the court system to compel the production of evidence from the discriminatory party. Where possible, we work to secure a fair settlement for those who have been discriminated against. But if necessary, we can take your matter to court.
Contact Our Housing Discrimination Attorney
Don’t let your right to equal and fair housing be taken away. If you or someone you love have been a victim of housing discrimination, give Hale & Monico a call. We can discuss your legal options today.