Local Laws That Punish Tenants and Landlords for Calls to the Police

Many towns and cities in Illinois have laws called “crime free housing” or “nuisance property” ordinances that punish landlords and tenants based on police or other emergency services response at a rental property. This can happen even when the tenant was the victim of the crime or called the police for protection or assistance. No one should have to choose between keeping their home and calling the police for help. Research has shown that these ordinances are disproportionately enforced against Black people and other people of color, and that they harm survivors of domestic violence who seek police protection, individuals with disabilities, and others who need emergency services.

These ordinances may violate a number of legal protections including the First Amendment right to petition the government, due process guarantees, and federal and state prohibitions against housing discrimination. In response to these concerns, in 2015 Illinois passed a state statute to protect survivors of domestic or sexual violence and individuals with disabilities from being penalized as a result of calls to the police for help. The state law says that tenants and landlords who are penalized or threatened with penalties because domestic or sexual violence has occurred at their property, or because of a need for police or emergency assistance as a result of a disability, can ask the courts for help. The ACLU of Illinois works to inform tenants and landlords of their rights, and to make sure that local governments know about the harms and legal deficiencies of these laws.

Have you been unfairly threatened with eviction or a fine because a call to police or arrest happened at your home or on your property? Share your story.


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