The Fair Housing Act is a federal law that prohibits all housing providers from discriminating against persons with a disability. The Fair Housing Act covers most housing – single family houses, apartment complexes, mobile home parts, condominiums, retirement communities, cooperatives, time shares, senior housing, boarding houses, residential hotels, group homes, and assisted living facilities. In some circumstances, the Act exempts owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, single-family housing sold or rented without the use of a broker, and housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members.
According to this Act, a disability is defined as “a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities.” Examples of impairments include mobility and cognitive impairments, vision, hearing, AIDS or HIV infection, mental illness, learning disabilities, head injury, asthma, chronic fatigue, or history of alcoholism or drug addiction. Disability does not include current use of or addiction to illegal drugs.
The Fair Housing Act protects all housing applicants, buyers, and tenants with disabilities as well as anyone associated with them, such as family members. It requires housing providers to make reasonable accommodations and allow reasonable modifications so that people with disabilities can use and enjoy housing on an equal basis. A housing provider does have the right to request proof of the disability (a doctor’s note should suffice) and how the requested accommodation or modification would increase that individual's safety and comfort.
Reasonable accommodations are those changes to policies, rules, or practices that persons with disabilities may need in order to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy their home. For example, waiving a no pet rule for a guide dog, or creating a reserved parking space near the building entrance for someone who is mobility impaired.
A reasonable modification is any physical change to a rental unit, condo, co-op, or common space that is needed for an individual’s full enjoyment of his/her home. Generally speaking, a modification is considered reasonable when it is practical and realistic and linked to a particular disability. Here are some examples of reasonable modifications:
Installing grab bars in the bathroom
Installing a ramp at the building’s entrance or front door
Installing lever doorknobs and faucets
Converting a tub to a curb-less shower
Lowering shelves or kitchen counter tops
It is each person’s responsibility to pay and arrange for whatever modifications they are requesting. A housing provider can require a deposit to be used to restore the unit back to its original condition when it’s time to be rented or sold. They can also require architectural drawings showing that the work complies with all state and local building codes.
If you think your rights have been violated, the Housing Discrimination Complaint Form is available for you to download, complete and return, or complete online and submit, or you may write HUD a letter, or telephone the HUD Office nearest you. You have one year after an alleged violation to file a complaint with HUD, but you should file as soon as possible.
What to Tell HUD: