Legal Source of Income
The City of Naperville’s Fair Housing Ordinance prohibits discrimination based on Legal Source of Income. Legal Source of Income is defined as: “Any lawful income, subsidy or benefit with which an individual supports himself or herself and his or her dependents, including but not limited to, child support, maintenance, and any federal, state or local public assistance, medical assistance or rental assistance program.” The code goes on to list 3 qualifications to this definition:
- Nothing prevents an owner or agent acting in good faith from taking into consideration factors other than legal sources of income such as credit history, criminal history or reference;
- Nothing shall require or prevent any person whose property, upon inspection by the Housing Authority, fails to meet federal housing quality standards in connection with the federal Housing Choice Voucher program to lease or rent a unit to a prospective tenant who is relying on such subsidy, payment assistance contribution or voucher for payment of part or all of the rent for such unit; and
- In such time as a landlord is waiting for an inspection or other agency response relative to a Housing Choice Voucher participant’s application for rental of the landlord’s unit, the landlord is not prohibited from choosing to rent such unit to another applicant who may or may not be a Housing Choice Voucher participant.
The Naperville Fair Housing Ordinance requires landlords to consider prospective tenants who include a housing choice voucher as their legal source of income; however, it does not require landlords to rent to a prospective tenant, including housing choice voucher holders, if that prospective tenant does not meet the landlord’s lawful screening criteria.
About the Housing Choice Voucher Program
The Housing Choice Voucher Program is the federal government’s major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. Housing choice vouchers are administered by local public housing agencies (PHAs). The PHAs receive federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to administer the voucher program. The primary PHAs that operate in Naperville are the DuPage Housing Authority (generally within DuPage County) and the Housing Authority of Joliet (generally within Will County).
A family that is issued a housing voucher is responsible for finding a suitable housing unit of the family’s choice. Voucher holders have a specified amount of time to find suitable housing, before their voucher is made available to the next family on the waiting list. Rental units must meet minimum standards of health and safety, as determined by the PHA. For example, see the DuPage Housing Authority’s Housing Quality Self-Inspection Checklist; nearly all of the items on this checklist are current requirements under the City’s Property Maintenance Regulations and/or Building Code. When the voucher holder finds a unit that they wish to occupy and reaches an agreement with the landlord over the lease terms, the PHA must inspect the dwelling and determine that the rent requested is reasonable. The housing subsidy is paid to the landlord directly by the PHA, and the family pays the difference between the rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program. In the event the market rent for the unit exceeds the total of the voucher subsidy and the tenant’s portion of the rent, the voucher holder may need to select a different rental unit.
Quick Facts about the DuPage Housing Authority’s Voucher Program (2016)
- 87% of voucher holders and their landlords continued their lease
- 24% of voucher holders were 62 years or older
- 47% of voucher holders were single mothers raising children
- 18% of voucher holder households included someone with a disability
- Average household income was $15,101 per year
- Voucher holders waited an average of 41 months before receiving assistance
Obligations of the Tenant, Landlord and PHA
Tenants may be required to pay a security deposit; and are expected to comply with the terms of the lease and the housing choice voucher program, pay their portion of the rent on time, maintain the unit in good condition, and notify the PHA of any changes in income or family composition. Tenants in violation of their lease are subject to the same legal consequences and remedies as non-voucher tenants.
Landlords retain their normal management responsibilities including tenant screening, rent collection, property maintenance and lease enforcement. They are expected to comply with their obligations under the terms of the lease, and the contract signed with the PHA enabling the PHA to make housing assistance payments on behalf of the tenant. And provide decent, safe and sanitary housing that meets the program’s housing quality standards for as long as the landlord receives housing assistance payments.
PHAs provide a family with the housing assistance that enables the family to seek out suitable housing, and the PHA enters into a contract with the landlord to provide housing assistance payments on behalf of the family. If the landlord fails to meet the owner's obligations under the lease, the PHA has the right to terminate assistance payments. The PHA reexamines the family's income and composition annually, and must inspect each unit annually to ensure that it meets minimum housing quality standards.
While the PHA screens families to determine eligibility for the Housing Choice Voucher program, the PHA does not screen voucher holders for suitability as tenants; that responsibility remains with the landlord. Landlords should conduct their own screening and follow the same lawful procedures they would use for any prospective tenant applying to rent their property.
Benefits for Landlords
- Assurance of prompt payment of the voucher amount each month from the PHA
- No-cost property inspections by the PHA
- Ready pool of motivated applicants for vacancies
- Potential for property tax abatements
Who to Contact
Landlords and prospective tenants who would like additional information about the Housing Choice Voucher Program should contact the PHA directly. For prospective tenants and landlords located in DuPage County, please contact the DuPage Housing Authority. For prospective tenants and landlords located in Will County, please contact the Housing Authority of Joliet.