Disability

 

FAIR HOUSING AND DISABILITY

Disability discrimination is prohibited by the Fair Housing Act (FHA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and other federal, state, and local laws. 


WHO IS CONSIDERED DISABLED?

The Fair Housing Act defines disability as: “a physical or mental impairment that significantly limits one or more major life activities.” It also includes someone who has a history of such a disability and/or someone who is treated like they have such a disability.

“Physical or mental impairments” could include conditions such as blindness, impaired mobility, HIV/AIDS, mental illness, and drug addiction. (Although the law protects people who are recovering from substance abuse, it does not protect those who are actively using illegal, controlled substances.) 

“Major life activity” refers to things like seeing, hearing, walking, performing manual tasks, caring for yourself, learning, and speaking.

What Conduct is Prohibited by Fair Housing Laws?

Discrimination can take many forms and occur at different stages of a housing transaction.

WHAT COULD DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION LOOK LIKE?

  • Refusing to rent or sell to you because of your disability or a relative’s disability 

  • Being charged extra fees, such as a higher deposit, or higher rent  

  • Refusal to allow assistance animals because of a “no pets” policy 

  • Refusal to permit reasonable modifications, such as wheelchair ramps or grab bars 

  • Being asked for a medical history to prove you have a disability or to prove you can live independently 

  • Being harassed or called derogatory terms by a housing provider because of your disability

DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION REQUIREMENTS

Buildings containing four or more units that were built or substantially rehabbed after March 13, 1991, must meet accessibility requirements. The seven basic requirements for accessibility are:

  1. An accessible building entrance on an accessible route - An accessible route is a continuous, unobstructed path that must connect building or facility entrances with accessible spaces and elements within the building or facility, that can be used by a person with a disability who uses a wheelchair, people with other disabilities as well as guests and other residents

  2. Accessible common and public use areas - Includes rooms, spaces, or elements inside or outside of a building that is made available for the use of residents of a building or their guests. These areas include hallways, lounges, lobbies, laundry rooms, swimming pools, mail rooms, parking, recreational areas, and passageways among and between buildings.

  3. Usable doors (usable by a person in a wheelchair) - All doors in covered buildings must be wide enough to provide passage for people who use wheelchairs. Interior usable doors are intended to provide 32 inches of clear width. Tolerances of ¼ inch to 3/8 inch are considered an acceptable range for usable doors.

  4. An accessible route into and through the dwelling unit - The accessible route must be sufficiently wide and lacking in abrupt changes in level so residents with disabilities (and/or their guests with disabilities) can safely use all rooms and spaces, including storage areas and, under most circumstances, exterior balconies and patios that may be part of their dwelling unit.

  5. Light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats, and other environmental controls in accessible locations - Guidelines include specific requirements for mounting controls and switches so a person using a wheelchair can execute: 1) a forward reach with no obstruction, 2) a forward reach over an obstruction, and 3) a side reach over an obstruction.

  6. Reinforced walls in bathrooms for later installation of grab bars - The law does not require the installation of grab bars in all bathrooms, but the walls must be reinforced to allow for the later installation of grab bars. The only grab bars that must be installed at the time of construction are in public and common-use toilet rooms and bathing facilities

  7. Usable kitchens and bathrooms - Kitchens and bathrooms must be usable - that is, designed and constructed so an individual in a wheelchair can maneuver in the space provided.

TENANTS WITH DISABILITIES MAY REQUEST REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS OR MODIFICATIONS:

Fair Housing laws protect tenants by giving them the right to request accommodations and modifications that would allow them to have the full use and enjoyment of their home.

REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS are when a landlord makes a necessary exception to the rules, policies, practices, or services offered by the housing provider. Examples include:

 

  • Reserving a parking space for a tenant with physical limitations

  • Allowing an assistance animal in a “no pets” apartment

  • Sending an extra copy of a tenant’s monthly rent bill to their social worker

  • Moving a tenant to the lower floor if the building doesn’t have an elevator

  • Providing alternative means of communication such as providing documents in braille or providing a sign-language interpreter

REASONABLE MODIFICATIONS are physical changes to the interior of a dwelling needed to have full use and enjoyment of the dwelling. Examples include:

  • Installing grab bars in a tenant’s apartment

  • Widening doorways in unit

  • Removal of below-counter cabinets

  • Installation of a wheelchair ramp at the entrance to a building/unit

  • Replacing door knobs with levers

  • Installation of visual and tactile alert devices

WHO PAYS FOR REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS OR MODIFICATIONS?

If you live in public or subsidized housing, the landlord is expected to pay the costs of any reasonable accommodation or modification.

 

If you live in private housing, the landlord is responsible for the cost of any accommodations and some modifications made in common areas while tenants are responsible for the cost of a modification to their units.

 

Landlords may also be responsible for the cost of modifications within units if they are necessary due to the landlord’s failure to comply with the design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act. Tenants may also be responsible for returning the unit back to its original state at the end of the lease.

HOW DO I REQUEST A REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION OR MODIFICATION?

Put in writing to your landlord that you need a reasonable accommodation or modification because of your disability.  You do not need to include any further information such as a diagnosis or medications, but you may need to provide verification of the need from a medical provider. 

If verification is requested, you may use the links here to access a form for your medical provider to complete: 

Reasonable Accommodation Forms for Medical Providers

Reasonable Accommodation Forms for Service Providers

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PET AND A SERVICE OR COMPANION ANIMAL?

A service or companion animal is not a pet and a landlord is required to modify a “no pets” policy and make exceptions for service or companion animals. Service animals are animals that perform a task for a person with disabilities such as a seeing-eye dog or a seizure detection dog. A companion animal or emotional support animal is an animal that provides comfort and emotional support for a person with disabilities. A landlord may not charge any extra security deposit or extra monthly charges for keeping a service or companion animal in an apartment and may not place any undue restrictions or burdens upon the animal’s owner for having such an animal.

If you think you have been the victim of housing discrimination because of your disability, please contact us for assistance.

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RESOURCES

 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT (HUD) RESOURCES

REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS AND MODIFICATIONS:

SERVICE, ASSISTIVE, THERAPEUTIC, EMOTIONAL SUPPORT, AND COMPANION ANIMALS: 

 

ACCESSIBILITYACCESSIBILITY: