macdata background screening

A Landlord’s Guide to Illinois Tenant Screening (2023)

Recent statistics reveal that 34% of Illinois residents are renters. With a large renter population, Illinois is an excellent state for real estate investors to rent their properties.

Like all 50 states, Illinois landlords must be careful when selecting property tenants. Not only do you want to choose the best applicant, but you must also abide by local laws.

There are unique practices for Illinois tenant screening laws that you will not see anywhere else. By understanding both best practices and local laws, you will be able to select a superb tenant.

Here are the details for Illinois landlords. 

Tenant Background Check Illinois

First, consider how Illinois is different from other states. Here are some specific Illinois tenant screening laws regarding applications and security deposits.

  • The Illinois rental application fee is non-refundable
  • Illinois landlord-tenant law does not set a limit for the landlord’s application fee
  • There is no limit on what a landlord can request for a security deposit

An application fee by the landlord is not included in the security deposit. Remember that the security deposit is refundable. However, you can deduct unpaid rent and deductions for damage when applicable.

Cook County Landlords

Tenant screening services in Illinois varies for Cook County, where there must be a two-step process. First, landlords must pre-qualify an applicant. Second, landlords must run a tenant criminal background check.

Cook County passed a new law in April 2019 called the Just Housing Amendment. Over one million Illinois residents with an arrest and conviction record have a fair chance at qualifying for a rental property. The Just Housing Amendment requires the landlords of Cook County to separate their screening processing into two parts.


In this part of the tenant background check in Illinois for Cook County, landlords can collect the application fee and review the Illinois rental application. Landlords can analyze credit reports, eviction history, income, employment, bankruptcies, and financial delinquencies. 

Illinois tenant screening laws for Cook County state that a landlord can move to the second part of the process if an applicant passes their pre-qualification standards. In the second step, a Cook County landlord can review the tenant’s criminal background check.

However, a Cook County landlord can only consider the conviction history for the last three years. Landlords can go as far back as seven years for the rest of the country. The only exception to the three-year rule is for current sex offenders.

Not only that, but some records must be excluded from adverse action. These include arrest records, charges, violations, and sealed or expunged records.

Screening Criteria

Never make this mistake. You must have the applicant sign a consent form, or you cannot investigate their pre-qualification history. Ensure that you have an area on the Illinois rental application to sign consent and that you are clear to run a tenant background check in Illinois.

As an Illinois landlord, you should have a list of screening criteria. Here are items that are recommended for your screening criteria.

  • No smoking
  • No use of illegal substances
  • No previous evictions
  • Must earn three times the monthly rent (at minimum)  

You could allow pets, but if you do, have a policy surrounding it. This includes which breeds are allowed, the weight, and the number of pets. You may want to add a security deposit for pets.

Tenant Screening Services Illinois

When you select a provider to help you, choose one who will provide the details you need to decide on the best tenant. A thorough tenant screening service in Illinois will include bankruptcies, evictions, judgments, liens, and a sex offender history.

Do not use your gut feelings when choosing a tenant. Perform a proper Illinois tenant screening.

Keep in mind that having specific criteria is vital. Further, your screening process must be consistent. Do not alter your requirements to allow one applicant to be accepted. 

When you deviate from the criteria you have set for others, this can be viewed as discrimination. You may incur a lawsuit because of it. 

Fair Housing Act Illinois

According to the Illinois Human Rights Act, discrimination in real estate transactions is forbidden. Not only does the Fair Housing Act of Illinois prevent the refusal to rent or sell because of bias, but it also stipulates there cannot be a difference in the price or other terms or conditions.  

The Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits the following types of discrimination:

  • Age (40 and over)
  • Ancestry
  • Arrest record
  • Color
  • Disability
  • Familial status
  • Marital status
  • Military status
  • National origin
  • Order of Protection
  • Pregnancy
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex (including sexual harassment)
  • Sexual orientation (including gender identity)
  • Status
  • Unfavorable military discharge

The Fair Housing Act of Illinois and the Illinois Human Rights Act apply to landlords, brokers, rental agents, managers, salespersons, or other employees and agents. Appraisers and builders are subject to the Fair Housing Act of Illinois.

A Guide to Illinois Tenant Screening

Upon entering into a lease agreement with a tenant, you want it to be a positive experience. This means choosing a tenant that pays rent on time, cares for the property, and does not engage in illegal activities. It would help if you had the best Illinois tenant screening services to help you select the right tenant. 

Work with a background screening company that helps Illinois landlords make informed decisions. As defined by the FCRA, MacData is a consumer reporting agency specializing in tenant screening services for Illinois.

Protect yourself and your property. Contact MacData Background Screening today!