Gig Workers – Don’t Let Landlords Discriminate Against You

landlord discrimination

landlord discrimination

Gig workers, freelancers, and independent contractors often earn their income and wages differently than salaried employees. Gig workers report their income with IRS forms such as a 1099 as they work inconsistent hours, and their income might be earned on an inconsistent schedule.

Because of their inconsistent hours and source of income, gig workers’ income is often questioned by potential landlords and realtors during the application process.

While landlords can set income requirements such as the total amount of income required to rent, they are not allowed to reject applicants based on where that income comes from. As an example, a landlord who rejects an applicant’s rental application simply because they’ve been paid via independent contract work, or through a side gig like Uber, Lyft, or other delivery services is violating Chicago ordinances.

What is the Chicago Fair Housing Ordinance?

The ordinance was enacted to combat discrimination and promote fair and equitable housing opportunities. The law seeks to stop discriminating against protected classes. The ordinance prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, ancestry, religion, disability, age (over 40), sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, parental status, marital status, military discharge status, and source of income.

Many of the cases filed under the Chicago Fair Housing Ordinance are based on discrimination against members of society who rely on public assistance or low-income financial support—examples include alimony, child support, veterans’ benefits (Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Certificate or VASH funds), social security (including disability), any housing choice vouchers (HCVs) or “Section 8” vouchers.

While the ordinance primarily concerns these sources of income, nothing in the statute limits the meaning of “source of income” to these forms. The only limit to the statute is that the income individuals use to support themselves must come from lawful means. (Chicago Municipal Code 6-10-020)

Thus, if a landlord or landowner rejects an applicant simply because they earn income as a gig worker or contractor, they’ve committed discrimination under Chicago law and exposed themselves to fines and penalties if a claim is filed before the City agency.

Successfully proving discrimination hinges on the quality of evidence obtained by the party filing the complaint. Discrimination cases have a significantly higher chance of success when they include various forms of evidence, such as text messages, emails, and voicemails.

Penalties for Source of Income Discrimination

The Chicago Fair Housing Board can award a variety of damages, including out-of-pocket damages for differences in rent, moving costs, and application fees, emotional distress damages, and punitive damages. While these penalties alone can be significant, the Commission on Human Relations also allows petitioners to collect their attorney’s fees, which can and often does exceed the other penalties.

The penalties for violation for the ordinance apply to both the person making the statements or publishing the advertisements and also to any party involved in the discrimination. The Fair Housing Ordinance can apply to “any owner, lessee, sublessee, assignee, managing agent, condominium association board of managers, governing body of a cooperative, a firm or corporation with the right to sell, rent, lease, sublease, or establish rules or policies for any housing accommodation…or any agent, or any real estate broker.” For instance, the Commission has found that in one matter a building owner, management company, and rental agent were all held liable for source of income discrimination.

What if I’ve been discriminated against?

If you’re a gig worker or independent contractor who believes they have encountered source of income discrimination or any other prohibited discrimination in housing within the City of Chicago can contact 1818 for a free consultation. Attorneys at 1818, upon being engaged, will evaluate the potential claim, and if appropriate, file a complaint with the Commission. The Commission then utilizes its attorneys and investigators to review the matter and if there are grounds, it will file a formal complaint against the responsible party.


Jordan Matyas

Jordan Matyas

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Jordan Matyas is a lawyer, lobbyist, and Founder of 1818 Legal, an Illinois professional licensing defense law firm he created in 2014. With more than 18 years of experience practicing law, he represents clients in a wide range of legal matters, including professional license defense, administrative law, land use and zoning, and state, local, and municipal law.

Jordan received his Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois — Chicago School of Law and is a member of the Illinois Bar Association.