Illinois Should Ensure all Tenants are Treated with Dignity

The Immigrant Tenant Protection Act would prohibit landlords from requiring a tenant to share their immigration status, protecting tenants from being forced to disclose information that is irrelevant to their role as renters.

All people deserve safe, decent housing. When a person secures housing as a renter, they should be treated with dignity and respect. Landlords should be responsive to the needs of their tenants, and our laws should establish the responsibility to treat tenants humanely.

Under this fair and reasonable system, once a renter has a unit and pays rent, the landlord provides a place for the tenant to live until the end of the lease. Unfortunately, this is often not the case in Illinois — especially when the renters are immigrants.

In Illinois, landlords are legally prohibited from discriminating against tenants based on race, religion and a variety of reasons, but our laws are not stopping them from evicting tenants they perceive to be immigrants or denying those people basic services. Despite regularly paying rent, Illinois resident Imron Aly received a 10-day eviction notice ostensibly because of a paperwork issue. The landlord’s demands had changed over time because Aly’s wife isn’t an American citizen. The apartment management company had no policy to request such documents, but acted like immigration officials, Aly explained.

“When landlords are able to carry out that kind of discrimination at any end of the economic spectrum, that means people who don’t have the ability to fight back or ask questions are even more vulnerable to the threat of losing their homes even if they have done nothing wrong,” he said.

The Shriver Center on Poverty Law and our partners at the Latino Policy Forum and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) have received troubling reports of stories like Aly’s. Tenants have been evicted and harassed because they are perceived to be immigrants. Landlords, potentially emboldened by anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies from the Trump Administration, have sought out immigrants for intimidation and harassment by:

  • Refusing to make basic repairs for residents of trailer homes, instead threatening to call federal immigration enforcement when residents asked for essential services like utilities to be fixed;
  • Deciding to evict a renter because his wife planned to move to the United States on a visa to join him;
  • And asking a legislator how to remove large numbers of immigrant renters from their properties.

Under the current system, immigrant renters are understandably afraid to fight for their rights or identify themselves when they tell their stories. Doing so could expose them to further retaliation or jeopardize sensitive situations, which come with many immigration statuses.

The Immigrant Tenant Protection Act (SB1290) gives Illinois the opportunity to correct some of the unfairness of our current system. This bill would prohibit landlords from requiring a tenant to share their immigration status, protecting tenants from being forced to disclose information that is irrelevant to their role as renters.

The bill also prohibits landlords from disclosing or threatening to disclose a tenant’s immigration status and gives tenants the right to sue if they are harassed in this way. Finally, the Illinois Tenant Protection Act would protect people from discriminatory evictions, giving renters legal justification to stop evictions if they can show the landlord was motivated by perceived immigration status.

Illinoisans from all backgrounds should agree: If our landlords accept monthly rent from our neighbors, then those landlords should hold up their end of the deal without harassment or discrimination based on their tenants’ backgrounds. You can join us in our effort to make Illinois a fairer place to rent housing by contacting your state representative and voicing your support for the Illinois Immigrant Tenant Protection Act. With your help, we can expand access to safe and secure housing, while pushing back against intolerance.

About the Author

Kevin Herrera
Kevin Herrera
Kevin Herrera
Legal Director

Raise the Floor Alliance

RJI 2017

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All people should have the right to a safe, stable home to build better futures for themselves and their families.

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