Approximately 36 million persons have a disability in the United States. Housing discrimination towards individuals with disabilities is illegal under the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) of 1988, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504). Fair housing complaints under the category of disability have been the most frequently filed type of complaint by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In 2011 HUD reported that more than 9,000 housing discrimination complaints were made, of which 48% were disability related.
The FHAA, ADA, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act all define a person with a disability as someone:
The FHAA forbids discrimination in the provision of housing (whether in selling or renting a dwelling unit) or in housing related transactions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, and disability.
The FHAA also prohibits discrimination against someone based upon being associated with a person with a disability. For example, a parent should not be denied housing because their child has a disability.
The FHAA covers homes, apartments, quadruplexes, and townhouses that are for sale or rent. There are some exemptions to coverage under the FHAA. For example, the owner of a small rental building (with four units or less), who also lives in the same building, does not have to adhere to the FHAA requirements as long as their advertising of the unit is not discriminatory in nature.
There are some specific steps tenants with disabilities need to take if they rent housing and require a physical modification (follow the same process to request a reasonable accommodation):
The FHAA requires that the tenant restores those features of the inside of the unit which were modified as a result of the reasonable modification(s) to the prior condition only where "it is reasonable to do so" and when the housing owner has expressed for the restoration to be performed. The tenant must pay for the restoration unless the next occupant of the dwelling desires to maintain the reasonable modification (s) performed. For more details visit the document titled, Joint Statement of The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice: Reasonable Modifications Under the Fair Housing Act. Tenants do not have to restore the modification (s) performed to the exterior of the dwelling units (e.g., the installation of a ramp to enter into the apartment complex or apartment unit).
An individual may ask for a reasonable modification at any time, including when the potential tenancy or purchase is first discussed. Under the FHAA, the owner cannot refuse or restrict access to housing because a request for a reasonable modification is made. Such action would constitute discrimination.
A housing provider is under no obligation to make a dwelling available to anyone who would pose a direct threat to the well-being or security of other individuals or whose tenancy would result in extensive physical destruction to the property of others. The direct threat must be legitimate and not based on fear, stereotype, myths or speculation on part of housing provider.
HUD is responsible for receiving complaints under the FHAA. You contact HUD in writing or by telephone. In addition, you can download a FHAA complaint form
from the HUD website through www.hud.gov.
Toll-free number: 1-800-669-9777
TTY phone for the hearing impaired: 1-800-927-9275
Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity
Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 Seventh St. SW
Washington, DC 20410-2000
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits any agency or individual who receives federal monetary support from discriminating based on disability. Section 504 makes it illegal for a housing provider to refuse to rent or sale to an individual due to a disability. Just like the FHAA, Section 504 requires public housing providers (e.g. public or government-subsidized housing) to make reasonable accommodations and modifications for tenants with disabilities. However, unlike the FHAA, Section 504 requires the public housing provider to pay for the physical modification, even if the alteration is required within an individual's apartment, provided the cost is not unreasonable.
Section 504 does not require that an individual with a disability be accepted without consideration to eligibility requirements or his or her ability to meet standard, nondiscriminatory tenant selection and screening criteria. Nevertheless, Section 504 requires that an individual with a disability be evaluated utilizing the equivalent objective criteria that are applied to individuals without disabilities.
With respect to housing, this means that a housing provider may not deny or refuse to sell or rent to an individual with a disability, and "may not impose application or qualification criteria, rental fees or sales prices, and rental or sales terms or conditions that are different than those required of or provided to persons who are not disabled."
Thus, a landlord may not charge an individual who uses a wheelchair a higher security deposit because of concerns about damages to the dwelling unit. Due to the fact that an individual who uses a wheelchair is no more likely than someone else to cause damage, past normal wear and tear, to a dwelling unit. Nevertheless, if an individual who uses a wheelchair does cause damage to a unit that is beyond typical wear and tear, whether the damage is associated to the wheelchair or not, that individual may be obligated to pay for such damage out of a standard security deposit that is charged to every person.
Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by state and local governments. According to Title II, "no qualified individual with a disability shall, on the basis of disability, be excluded from participation in, or be denied the benefits, of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any public entity." Additionally, an agency or its representatives cannot discriminate against family members, friends and others associated with an individual with a disability, because they associate with a person with a disability. Title II requires state and local governments to make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures when the modifications are essential to avoid discrimination based on disability – unless the public agency can prove that providing the modifications would fundamentally change the nature of the service, program, or activity or that the modification will result in an undue financial burden to the agency. With respect to housing, this means that a housing provider, which may be a state and local government, may not deny or refuse to sell or rent to an individual with a disability.
Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by commercial facilities and public accommodations. Inns, hotels, and other places of lodging are considered public accommodations under Title III of the ADA, in addition to dormitories, homeless shelters, nursing homes, and some timeshares. Furthermore, common areas that are for the public to utilize at "covered multifamily dwellings" under the FHAA are required to meet ADA Standards for Accessible Design (ADA Standards). For instance, a rental office in a multifamily residential development or a convenience store situated in that development would be covered under Title III of the ADA. It is important to note that a multifamily entity is still under obligation to provide reasonable accommodation or program access even if there are structural barriers that cannot be removed in places open to public, like rental offices. This avoids excluding the person with the disability from conducting his or her business in the place of public accommodation. For example, because of structural barriers preventing access to the rental office, a staff member may schedule a meeting with a potential tenant at an accessible location within the complex (e.g. the club house) to ensure the signing of a lease agreement. Common use spaces that are for use by the tenants of the development and their visitors would not be covered by Title III of the ADA.
For properties built by Local/State agency on or after March 15, 2012 and constructed without funding from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design must be followed to for construction specification. Properties built with funding from HUD must comply with Section 504 of Rehabilitation Act regulations building guidance. The 2010 Standards for Accessible Design mandates that at least 5% of the units in residential facilities offer mobility features, and at least 2% of the units to offer communication features. For more on the requirements of ADA accessibility requirements, visit sections 233.1, 233.2, 233.3, 233.3.1, and 233.3.2 of the 2010 Standards. These sections also provide information to help you distinguish between properties that must comply with HUD regulations employing section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. As stated above under Section 504, the HUD regulations apply to receivers of federal financial assistance through HUD.
Important Point: The requirements of having a certain number of units available to persons with disabilities also applies to residential dwelling units designed and constructed (or altered) by a local/state agency that offer units for sale to the public. These properties must comply with the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design (include sections 233 and 809). A good example would be when a housing program operated by a Local/State agency must first identify the buyers before starting the construction of the dwellings, In such programs, the covered agency must ensure that a number of units comply with the requirements for accessible features thus pre-identified buyers with disabilities have an opportunity to by accessible units.
|LAW||Effective Date for New Buildings||Which New Buildings Are Covered||Percentage of New Units Required to be Usable by People with Disabilities||Requirements for Accessibility in New Units||Modifications to an Existing Apartment: Who Pays?|
|Fair Housing Amendments Act||March 13, 1991||Residential Building with 4 or more units||With an Elevator: Every unit
Without an Elevator: Ground-floor units
|American Nat'l Standards Institute ANSI A117.1-& the Fair Housing Act Design Manual||Tenant|
|Section 504, Rehabilitation Act||June 1988||Federally funded housing Developments||Mobility disabilities:
Five (5) % or one unit
Two (2) % or one unit
|Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS)||Landlord|
|ADA||On or after March 15, 2012||Local/State funded or sponsored housing||At least five percent (5%) of the units in residential facilities offer mobility features, and at least two percent (2%) of the units to offer communication features||the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design||Landlord|
For additional questions regarding housing and how the various laws intersect, please contact our Technical Assistance team!