Although the law specifically quotes “handicap,” we use the term disability whenever possible. Federal fair housing laws define disability as an impairment that “substantially” limits a major life activity. Disability issues in fair housing typically fall into five primary categories: reasonable accommodations, reasonable modifications, service animals (a type of reasonable accommodation), accessibility, lending, and zoning (most often related to group homes).
Disability based housing discrimination can take many forms including:
- Not allowing a reasonable accommodation in a “no pets” policy for someone who needs an animal for their disability and who meets the definition of disability under law.
- A lender mandating proof of long term disability benefits or asking for medical statements in order to approve a mortgage.
- Only providing information on first floor units to someone who is blind out of fear they may hurt themselves on stairs.
- A requirement for rental that an applicant must be “employed.”
- Requiring that someone using a wheelchair pay an extra deposit or get additional insurance coverage due to concern that they may damage the unit.
- A multi-family property built after March 13, 1991 that does not meet accessibility requirements.
- Making verbal statements such as “I don’t rent to bipolars” or “disabled people belong in a nursing home.”
- A requirement that a person with a disability must be able to live independently.
- Not allowing a person with a disability to make a reasonable modification – such as having ramp installed to get into their unit.
- A public housing authority refusing to provide a deaf interpreter or a housing provider refusing to rent to a deaf person who uses a relay service to communicate.
- FHCCI Fact Sheet 4 – Reasonable Accommodations and Modifications Fact Sheet:
- FHCCI Fact Sheet 5 – Animals for Those with Disabilities Fact Sheet:
- FHCCI Fact Sheet 8 – Accessibility Fact Sheet:
- FHCCI Fact Sheet 11 – Visitability: Ensuring Homes are Accessible for People with Disabilities Fact Sheet:
- FHCCI Fact Sheet 17 – Independent Living and Fair Housing
General Disability Reports of Interest:
- Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities: Barriers at Every Step: 2005 study by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development which showed that people with disabilities face discrimination in up to half of rental inquiries
- Shut Out, Priced Out and Segregated: The Need for Fair Housing for People with Disabilities, Metro Fair Housing Services, Inc., August 2011
- Are You Listening Now? A National Investigation Uncovers Housing Discrimination Against the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, National Fair Housing Alliance, December 2013
- Rental Housing Discrimination on the Basis of Mental Disabilities: Results of Pilot Testing, 2017 study by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development that shows that persons living with mental illness, intellectual, or other developmental disabilities continue to face significant housing discrimination in the rental housing market
Reasonable Accommodations and Modifications:
- FHCCI Resources:
- FHCCI Reasonable Accommodations and Modifications Fact Sheet
- FHCCI Guide to Reasonable Accommodations and Modifications
- HUD/DOJ Guidance:
- HUD-DOJ Joint Statement on Reasonable Accommodations Under the Fair Housing Act
- HUD-DOJ Joint Statement on Reasonable Modifications Under the Fair Housing Act
- HUD Guidance Memo on Insurance Coverage and Reasonable Accommodation
- HUD Guidance Memo on Requests for Exception Payment Standards for Person with Disabilities as a Reasonable Accommodation: Memo outlines when a person with a disability can make a request for a reasonable accommodation for an increased payment amount through the housing assistance program. (An example may include when it relates to the need for accessible housing and being unable to find within the fair market range.)
- Multiple Chemical Sensitivities: HUD Memo from March 14, 1992 on when a Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Disorder meets the definition of disability and would be protected under fair housing laws.
- Over Subsidization in the Housing Choice Voucher Program, October 16, 2014: Memo which reviews when voucher for additional bedrooms may be obtained.
- General Information:
- Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law Fact Sheets: Bazelon has a number of fact sheets available on issues involving reasonable accommodations.
- Zoning – Rights to Reasonable Accommodations Under Zoning