The Illinois rental application form is a legal document that landlords use to evaluate prospective tenants to help decide if they should rent to the applicant. The information requested relates to rental history, eviction history, income, and other details that can be used for background screening purposes.
- Application Fee – in Illinois, there is no limit on what a landlord can charge as an application fee. Cities and municipalities may have their own laws for application fees.
- Discrimination Laws – Illinois offers some specific state protections against discrimination (such as military status) in addition to federal law which makes it illegal in Illinois to ask about race, color, religion, nationality, sex, disabilities, or familial status (such as children who will live in the property), with some exceptions.
- Consent for Credit Check – the Federal Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires a prospective tenant to provide written consent to check their credit history during the screening process.
Illinois Rental Application Laws
The following laws apply to the screening process for leasing in the state of Illinois.
Collecting an Application Fee in Illinois
While other states may specify a maximum rental application fee, Illinois does not have any limitations on who can charge the application fee, or how much this fee can be.
Illegal Housing Discrimination in Illinois
Federal and state laws are in effect in Illinois to protect potential renters from unfair discrimination during the application process.
Fair Housing Act
The Federal Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate against the following protected classes:
- National Origin (Nationality)
- Familial Status (having or not having children)
- Disability (Physical or Mental)
As a result, asking about any of these items on a rental application form (and/or using them to base an application decision on) is not allowed.
Illinois Fair Housing Laws
Illinois state laws add additional protections for the following classes:
- Genetic Information
- Marital Status
- Order of Protection Status
- Sexual Orientation
- Veteran/Military Status
- Gender Identity
These criteria may not be asked about in writing or in person, and may not be used in the consideration of a rental application.
Exemptions to Fair Housing Laws
In Illinois, the following exemptions are allowed:
- Age and/or Familial Status – landlords may ask for an applicant’s age or about the existence of children in the case of age-specific communities, such as senior housing. This is a federal exemption known as the “Housing for Older Persons” exemption which applies to certain housing developments.
- “Mrs Murphy Exemption” – 1-2-family dwellings or buildings with 4 or fewer units where one unit is occupied by the owner are exempt from Fair Housing Laws, unless a real estate agent represents the landlord.
- Religious Organizations – landlords may give preferential treatment to certain applicants based on religious practices for property that is owned, operated, supervised, or controlled by a religious organization as long as there is no commercial intent. However, other protected classes may not be the basis for making a decision as a result of this exemption. 42 U.S. Code § 3607
- Private Clubs – private clubs that operate without commercial intent or discrimination in membership may provide preferential treatment of potential tenants for dwellings owned or operated by the club. 42 U.S. Code § 3607
Federally, race is a non-exemption criteria that cannot have an influence when considering applicants. (Civil Rights Act of 1866)
Consent for Credit Checks
Before a landlord can run a credit check based on the prospective tenant’s information on the submitted rental application, the Federal Credit Reporting Act requires that written consent must be given by the applicant. This written consent can be given via a statement of such and signature on the rental application form itself, or via a separate consent form (example template).
Illinois Security Deposit Law
If an applicant is approved, the following laws apply to the collection of security deposits in Illinois:
- Standard Limit / Maximum Amount: There is no limit on the security deposit that can be charged by Illinois landlords.
- Receipt Requirements: There are no receipt requirements for Illinois security deposits, but Chicago landlords must provide a receipt for collected deposits.
- Financial Holdings: Illinois landlords do not have rules on how the funds must be held, but Chicago landlords must keep the deposit in an FDIC insured bank located in Illinois and provide the holding information plus state-standard interest on the balance.
Sending Rental Application Forms
Landlords can send rental application forms to tenants in one of two ways:
- Manually – using the PDF and Word templates available for free on our website (see the top right of this webpage), landlords can send a rental application form to tenants via a physical copy or email.
- With Software – most popular property management software services include an online rental application form that can automate the collection and screening process for landlords.
For reviews of popular property management software, click here.
Processing a Rental Application
The next step in the tenant screening process is to use the information on the rental application form to conduct a background check:
- Credit Check – subject to the tenant’s written consent, a credit check will either provide a simpler “pass/fail” report, or a full credit report including the tenant’s credit score and information about their income, employment, past addresses, credit inquiries and more.
- Eviction Check – an eviction check aims to show the tenant’s history of eviction filings or judgments against them at any point in the last 7 years.
- Criminal History Check – a criminal history check aims to show any records involving the tenant in state court criminal records or in databases such as the national sex offender public registry.
Illinois Eviction Record Search
While there are third-party software options for viewing eviction records, these public records are available for anyone to access. As a result, you can perform the search yourself.
If you want to perform your own eviction record search:
- Go to the Judici Participating Courts List. Of Illinois’ 102 Circuit Courts, 77 participate in using Judici. If you know the county the tenant’s previous jurisdiction falls under, select it from the list.
- Enter the tenant’s name in the Name search box at the top of the page. Any existing cases will be listed.
- Select the case number to view any available information on the case. Free service offers limited access. Premium services are offered with 6-month subscriptions for $24.95 per month.
Responding to Rental Applications
If an applicant meets all of your tenant screening criteria, then there’s nothing you need to do beyond notifying them and moving forward with the normal leasing process.
However, if you acquire a consumer report for an applicant (i.e. credit, eviction or criminal history) and you make an “adverse action” against them (EVEN IF the report’s information wasn’t the primary reason for doing so), you are required to provide the tenant with a notice letter that includes certain details, known as an “adverse action notice”.
An adverse action is defined as either rejecting the applicant or instituting additional/higher requirements than you have for another applicant (i.e. requiring a co-signer, larger security deposit, higher rent or an additional deposit).
In these cases, an adverse action notice is required to be sent to the applicant, and must include the following:
- The agency’s name, address and phone number that supplied the report.
- A statement explaining that the CRA didn’t make the decision for the adverse action themselves, and as a result, that they can’t explain why the decision was made.
- A statement explaining the applicant’s right to dispute such information and their right to a copy of the report in question within 60 days.
To learn more about requirements surrounding adverse action notices, see this article from the Federal Trade Commission. To get an idea of what an adverse action notice might look like, see this example letter.
Additionally, to protect against accusations of illegal discrimination, it is always recommended to include the exact reason why the application was not approved in the rejection letter.