What is Covered by the Fair Housing Act - Individuals with Disabilities
A recent HUD study shows people with disabilities face discrimination in up to half of rental inquiries. Federal laws define a person with a disability as "Any person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of such impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment."
In general, a physical or mental impairment includes hearing, mobility and visual impairments, chronic alcoholism, chronic mental illness, AIDS, AIDS Related Complex, and mental retardation that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Major life activities include walking, talking, hearing, seeing, breathing, learning, performing manual tasks, and caring for oneself.
Regardless of whether you live in private or public housing, Federal laws provide the following rights to persons with disabilities:
Prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. It is unlawful for a housing provider to refuse to rent or sell to a person simply because of a disability. A housing provider may not impose different application or qualification criteria, rental fees or sales prices, and rental or sales terms or conditions than those required of or provided to persons who are not disabled. Example: A housing provider may not refuse to rent to an otherwise qualified individual with a mental disability because s/he is uncomfortable with the individual's disability. Such an act would violate the Fair Housing Act because it denies a person housing solely on the basis of their disability.
Requires housing providers to make reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities. A reasonable accommodation is a change in rules, policies, practices, or services so that a person with a disability will have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling unit or common space. A housing provider should do everything s/he can to assist, but s/he is not required to make changes that would fundamentally alter the program or create an undue financial and administrative burden. Reasonable accommodations may be necessary at all stages of the housing process, including application, tenancy, or to prevent eviction. Example: A housing provider would make a reasonable accommodation for a tenant with mobility impairment by fulfilling the tenant's request for a reserved parking space in front of the entrance to their unit, even though all parking is unreserved.
Requires housing providers to allow persons with disabilities to make reasonable modifications. A reasonable modification is a structural modification that is made to allow persons with disabilities the full enjoyment of the housing and related facilities. Examples of a reasonable modification would include allowing a person with a disability to: install a ramp into a building, lower the entry threshold of a unit, or install grab bars in a bathroom.
Reasonable modifications are usually made at the resident's expense. However, there are resources available for helping fund building modifications. Additionally, if you live in Federally assisted housing the housing provider may be required to pay for the modification if it does not amount to an undue financial and administrative burden.
Requires that new covered multifamily housing be designed and constructed to be accessible. In covered multifamily housing consisting of 4 or more units with an elevator built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, all units must comply with the following seven design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act:
In covered multifamily housing without an elevator that consists of 4 or more units built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, all ground floor units must comply with the Fair Housing Act seven design and construction requirements.