Cook County’s Human Relations Committee should carefully consider how new rules governing how housing applicants’ criminal backgrounds will be evaluated will impact property owners, according to a letter to the editor by Illinois REALTOR® Hugh Rider published in the Chicago Tribune.

REALTOR® Hugh Rider

Rider, who is chair of the state association’s Public Policy and Government Affairs Member Involvement Group and a former Chicago Association of REALTORS® president, wrote that Illinois REALTORS® firmly believes there should be a path for those with criminal pasts to rejoin society, but he said the current Just Housing Amendment passed by the Cook County Board in April leaves many unanswered questions which have a direct bearing on private property rights.

The Just Housing Amendment initially limits property owners from using criminal background information when screening rental applicants. Only later in the application process can a property owner weigh an applicant’s criminal history.
“…Property owners must be able to ensure that their properties are occupied by persons who are not likely to commit crimes on the property, and will not do harm to other residents. Owners and tenants need to know that their homes are safe,” Rider wrote.

The letter asks the Cook County Human Relations Committee, which is crafting rules for the new ordinance, to provide clarity on how much control property owners have in the review process and how far back a property owners can look when conducting a criminal background check. Also of concern is whether an appeals process for those denied housing due to a background check would be unnecessarily lengthy.

Rider writes: “A lack of clarity can easily result in confusion, which could potentially harm Cook County renters and property owners.”