Disability (Handicap)

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 Resources:

General Disability Reports of Interest:

Reasonable Accommodations and Modifications:

Service, Assistive, Therapeutic, Emotional Support and Companion Animals: 

Accessibility:

Multi-family properties built for first occupancy as of March 13, 1991 have to be accessible to people with disabilities under fair housing laws. 

Visitability:

Making single family homes “visitable” by those with disabilities or mobility limits.

  • FHCCI Resources:
    • Fact Sheet 11 – Visitability: Ensuring Homes are Accessible for People with Disabilities
  • General Information:

Lending:

Olmstead and Community Based Care Issues:

Using People First Language:

Zoning and Group Homes:

  • Zoning and Group Homes: Joint Statement of the DOJ and HUD on Group Homes, Local Land Use and the Fair Housing Act, August 18, 1999

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