Illinois Rental Application Form

Last Updated: February 22, 2022 by Elizabeth Souza

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.

Illinois Laws on Rental Application Fees

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. It’s advised to not charge more than the average out-of-pocket expense, but ultimately the determination of the fee is at the sole discretion of the landlord.

Additionally, security deposits do not have a cap or maximum amount set by Illinois state law, but cities and counties may impose their own limits. There are no receipt requirements for Illinois security deposits or security deposit holdings; however, the city of Chicago has different requirements. In Chicago, landlords must provide a receipt for collected deposits They must also keep the deposit in an Illinois FDIC insured bank and provide the holding information including the state-standard interest on the balance.

What Illinois Rental Application Forms Can’t Ask About

The Federal Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate against the following protected classes:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National Origin (Nationality)
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Familial Status (Having or not having children)
  • Disability (Physical or Mental)

Illinois state laws add additional protections for the following classes:

  • Age
  • Ancestry
  • Children
  • Pregnancy
  • Genetic Information
  • Marital Status
  • Order of Protection Status
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Veteran/Military Status (Including unfavorable discharge from the Military)
  • Gender Identity

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 illegal. Therefore, these criteria may not be asked about in writing or in person, and may not be used in the consideration of a rental application.

However, certain exemptions to Federal Fair Housing Act laws do exist. 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” – single or two-family dwellings or buildings with four 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

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 (like in our free template), or via a separate consent form (such as this one).

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.
    • It’s important to note that many metro areas, including the city of Chicago has additional screening laws. According to the Just Housing Amendment (JHO), in Cook County, landlords must go through a two-step tenant screening process.
      • First, the landlord must go through the pre-qualification process with the tenant (i.e., request the application fee, review the application, credit reports, etc.).
      • Secondly, the landlord must do a criminal screening (i.e., criminal history not more than 3 years old). As for the criminal screening, a landlord may not consider any of the following information: an arrest (without conviction), participation in a diversion/deferral of judgement program, any record that has been expunged, sealed or pardoned, and any juvenile record.

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.

To perform your own eviction record search:

  • Go to the Judici Participating Courts List. Judici contains 77 out of 102 Illinois Circuit Court records. 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.

Adverse Action Notices

If you acquire a consumer report for an applicant (i.e., credit, eviction or criminal history) and take an “adverse action” against them such as any of the following:

  • Rejecting the applicant
  • Requiring a co-signer (when they didn’t include one before)
  • Requiring a larger security deposit
  • Requiring higher rent

Then you are legally required to provide the tenant with a notice letter that includes certain details, known as an “adverse action notice”. This is required even if the consumer report’s information wasn’t the primary reason for the action.

The notice must include details about the consumer reporting agency, an explanation that they didn’t take the adverse action themselves (and can’t explain why it was made) and a statement on the applicant’s right to a copy of the report and to dispute its contents within 60 days. Additionally, when rejecting an applicant, it’s recommended to specify the reason (but not legally required).

For an example, see this tenant rejection letter template.