I posted yesterday about the new rules issued by the Cook County Board with respect to the well-intended but badly implemented Cook County Just Housing Amendment. Those rules are, in a word, nuts. It is apt to suggest that the inmates are truly running the asylum. Here’s why.
Section 720.120 of the rules provide that when a Cook County landlord performs a criminal background check, the landlord can only deny a prospective tenant based on their criminal background when there is a ‘Demonstrable Risk” of likelihood of harm to the personal safety of other residents and/or there is a likelihood of serious damage to property. That’s perhaps reasonable. However, Section 720.120 provides in part that with only exception for registered sex offenders:
Criminal convictions that are three (3) years old or older do not represent a demonstrable risk to personal safety or property, except in the following circumstances:
So any criminal conviction that is OLDER THAN THREE YEARS cannot be considered. Ask yourself – is there any major crime that will show up in that three year window? Will many convictions during the last three years rise to the level of being a demonstrable risk if the applicant is back out on the street? What if the tenant committed arson seven years ago? What if they killed someone twenty years ago. Hey, who doesn’t like info-graphics? Let’s look at a scenario.
So, consider a hypothetical situation. Let’s say that in 2005, Bill, a prospective tenant just “happens” to commit a brutal quintuple murder killing a mom, dad and their three kids in cold blood. Luckily, a man-hunt ensues and Bill is arrested shortly after these mass killings. Because of his right to a speedy trial, Bill is convicted in 2006 and sentenced to 14 years in prison. I know, I thought the sentence was light as well considering all the gore and blood at the crime scene. He is released on December 31, 2019. Ready to start his new life and freshly released from jail, on January 1, 2020, Bill finds YOUR apartment advertisement and makes an application. Because you are a law-abiding landlord and keep up with all of the latest landlord-tenant news, you already know the Cook County rules and you are ready to go! After going through the disclosure process and pre-qualifying Bill, you run your criminal background check. Yep. Good news! Bill checks out! There’s NOTHING in his criminal background for the period between 2017 to 2020. He did not commit a SINGLE CRIME during his time at the Statesville Correctional Center. He’s clean. Any YOU. MUST. RENT. TO. HIM.
Insanity? For sure. You don’t even get to make an “individualized assessment” on Bill. His murder conviction is more than 3 years old, so it can not be considered in making a rental decision. Bill has a ‘clean’ record, for rental purposes in Cook County, the day he steps out of jail. It doesn’t matter if he is reformed. It doesn’t matter if he could be shown to be a demonstrable threat or not. And, when Bill decides he’s had enough of city life and intends to move down state, his friend Sam is going to sublease your apartment from Bill (did I mention, you own in Chicago and you have to accept a reasonable subtenant?). Sam? Oh yeah, Bill met Sam during his time at Statesville. Sam just got out after serving seven years… for arson.