Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s pen remains smoking hot with bill signatures this summer. Among them is the Immigrant Tenant Protection Act, effective Aug. 21. What is that?
It says that, unless required by law or court order, a landlord who has a lease agreement with a tenant shall not threaten to disclose or actually disclose to any third party the immigration or citizenship status of the tenant with the intent of harassing, intimidating or retaliating against the tenant for the tenant’s exercising his/her rights under the lease, or to influence the tenant to surrender possession.
The tenant can sue the landlord for actual financial injury proven by the tenant for the landlord’s violating that law, plus a penalty of not more than $2,000, plus attorney’s fees and any other order the tenant may ask the judge which is appropriate (like: “landlord, don’t do that again”).
In any lawsuit involving a tenant’s housing rights, the act also makes the tenant’s citizenship or immigration status irrelevant regarding those rights. Thus, the other party to the suit can’t raise that status as an issue. Exceptions are if the tenant raises the issue by claim or defense, or the other party can clearly show that inquiry into immigration or citizenship status is necessary to comply with federal law.
This latter situation might be where a federal program subsidizing the rent of tenants can’t by rule be available to tenants who are not U.S. citizens and are not in compliance with immigration rules.
Nevertheless, if a landlord has entered into a lease agreement with a tenant, whether the lease is verbal or written, the landlord can’t use the fact of the tenant’s citizenship status as leverage to extract silence from the tenant for a landlord’s violation of the lease agreement. That is the point of the law.
This act also amends the Mobile Home Landlord and Tenant Rights Act and prohibits park owners from reprisal for a tenant’s effort to enforce any rights under mobile home park leases or law.
Now landlords, calm down. The statue specifically allows you to still request information to determine the financial qualifications of a prospective tenant. So, you can still run a credit check.
And if a lease is entered into, you have all the rights to evict for any violation of the terms of the lease just as before. Just don’t get uppity about threatening disclosure of the tenant’s immigration status so as to get something from the tenant you were not otherwise entitled to under the agreed upon terms of the lease.
If you are obligated to repair the windows, then repair the dang windows. Don’t ignore the tenant’s request for repair just because you think you can threaten the tenant with turning them into the INS if they don’t shut up about it.
But be wary of not leasing to a prospective tenant because of suspected citizenship issues. The Federal Fair Housing Act does not allow discrimination of leasing based on race, color, religion, gender or national origin.
The law is a minefield out there.
And there’s been no shortage of legal grenade throwing coming out of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. these past 31 months.