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Civil rights still violated when seeking fair housing

Many in Illinois are still struggling to obtain fair housing. Despite decades of fighting for civil rights, people of color often face discrimination when buying or renting homes. Since the 1960s, when Martin Luther King fought for fair housing opportunities in Chicago, organizations have conducted tests to determine if black renters are denied the same rights as white people in similar circumstances.

Recently, one of these tests was conducted after a young black woman who was studying law tried to rent an apartment from a white woman. The landlord refused to allow the student to look at the unit, asked about her income and then told her there was nothing available. However, when a tester, who was a white woman of about the same age, went to the apartment, the landlord showed her around numerous apartments and gave her advice about getting a co-signer.

Testing involves sending similar people to the same address to see if they are treated differently because of the one important difference between them. Perhaps one is black and one white, one is a single woman and the other a mother, or one has a voucher for housing assistance and the other does not. Sometimes these tests are random, but more often they follow a complaint from someone who feels they have been discriminated against.

The Fair Housing Act forbids landlords or home sellers from discriminating against anyone because of their color, race, religion, disabilities and other protected classes. It is often a challenge to prove that someone has violated a person's civil rights. This is why Illinois residents rely on an experienced attorney to advocate for them.

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