Pre-Qualification and Criminal Background Check

Cook County, IL, has passed the Just Housing Amendment to the Human Rights Ordinance, which requires landlords to perform the tenant screening process in a two-step manner (first, pre-qualification, and then criminal screening) with enforcement beginning on February 1, 2020. Before requesting the applicant to pay the application fee, landlords must communicate any tenant screening criteria to the applicant, and the applicant has the right to dispute any inaccuracies in their conviction history and procedural rules.

How LeaseRunner handles the two-step process

  1. Pre-Qualification

    This step can include requesting the application fee, collecting and reviewing the rental application, credit report, eviction report, financial report, any financial statements, income/employment verification, and rental history verification. The landlord cannot ask the applicant whether they have been convicted of a crime.

    The landlord can disclose the tenant screening criteria to the applicant while placing the order for the rental application, credit report, eviction report, and financial profile. When an order is placed, the applicant decides to authorize the release of the requested tenant screening reports and proceeds to the payment for these reports (if payable by the applicant). Once submitted, the landlord can further request any other proof of income and conducts previous rental verification outside of the LeaseRunner system. Finally, based on the information provided, the landlord denies or pre-qualifies the applicant.

  2. Criminal Background Check

    After the landlord pre-qualifies the applicant and notifies the applicant with an intent to proceed with the lease agreement, then the landlord can conduct a criminal background check. In LeaseRunner, the landlord can simply place an order for a criminal background check to the pre-qualified applicant. Instead of screening criteria, the landlord can communicate in writing the decision to lease the property to the applicant pending the criminal check. The applicant authorizes the release of the report from the email request and the report is immediately available to the landlord for review after the payment is made.

    It is important to note that the ordinance allows landlords to only consider the last three years of conviction history. (The rest of the country considers 7 years of conviction history.) No arrest records, charges, violations, or sealed / expunged cases can be considered for the adverse action. This three year look-back does not apply to current sex offenders.

Evaluating and Disputing Criminal Records

If an applicant has a criminal record, the landlord is required to conduct an “individualized assessment” and consider relevant factors from the last three years to determine if the applicant can pose any risk to the safety of the neighborhood or the property of others. If this risk exists, the applicant can be denied housing. The ordinance (see link above) provides a list of factors that should be considered as part of the individualized assessment of an applicant’s relevant criminal history.

If the applicant is denied housing based on an inaccurate criminal record, the applicant can produce evidence within five days and dispute the accuracy of the information provided in the criminal search results.

Cook County, IL has provided sample notices and adverse action letters for your convenience. LeaseRunner does not send these notices so they have to be used outside of the LeaseRunner system: Just Housing Amendment Sample Notices

After approving your applicant, it is important to note that all Cook County properties within the city limits of Chicago must use the Chicago Residential Lease 2024. LeaseRunner supplies and updates its Chicago Lease Agreement periodically after Tenant-Landlord laws change. If your property does not have a Chicago address, use the Illinois Residential Lease. LeaseRunner also provides its Illinois Lease Agreement for your convenience.