Fair Housing Laws
There are three federal laws that provide legal protections to insure that fair housing for people with disabilities. These federal laws described below forbid housing discrimination and require landlords to make reasonable changes or “accommodations” 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 area. People with disabilities have the right to seek such an accommodation so they can have full use of their housing, or to prevent eviction.
Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) applies to housing subsidized with federal funds and those funded by HUD that must comply with HUD’s comprehensive regulations. The purpose of Section 504 is to eliminate discriminatory behavior towards persons with disabilities and to provide physical accessibility, thus ensuring that people with disabilities will have the same opportunities in federally funded programs as do people without disabilities.
The Fair Housing Act (1988) applies to virtually all housing. It protects people from discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of dwellings based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability and marital status. In addition, the law requires that a percentage of newly constructed or substantially rehabilitated buildings with four or more units designed for first occupancy after March 13, 1991 meet certain design and construction requirements so that they are accessible to persons with disabilities.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) (ADA) applies to housing operated by state or local governments and has certain accessibility codes to which builders must be in compliance. It guarantees individuals with disabilities equal opportunity in employment, state and local government facilities, public accommodations and commercial facilities, transportation and telecommunications. Generally, the ADA does not apply to residential housing but certain ADA issues arise with respect to accessibility to common use areas in residential developments, to sales and rental offices, and to sales areas in model homes.
Reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications can be asked for under these acts. A reasonable accommodation is a change in policies, practices, or services, when such a change may be necessary to afford a person with a disability equal opportunity and access to use and enjoy a dwelling. Common examples include waiving a “no pet” policy for a service animal or providing accessible parking. A reasonable modification is a structural or other physical change to the unit or housing structure to provide physical access to a person with a disability.
Please consider reviewing the SDHP publication Understanding Reasonable Accommodations and Modifications in PA, which clarifies the regulations related to housing for people with disabilities.
If an individual believes that he or she has been injured by a discriminatory housing practice, the first step is to file a complaint. The grievance must be brought to HUD’s attention within one year of the alleged discriminatory practice or to the appropriate funding agency. Complaints can also be filed with the United States Justice Department and privately in the Federal District Court or State Court. Anyone can file a complaint and anyone who has been involved in the design, construction and/or development of the housing in question can be held liable.
For more information. contact:
Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity
U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, Room 5204 Washington, D.C. 20410
If you wish, you may use the toll-free Hotline number: 1-800-669-9777
The number to call in Philadelphia is 215-656-0500
If You Have a Disability, HUD also provides:
- A toll-free TDD phone for the hearing impaired: 1-800-927-9275
- Tapes and Braille materials
- Assistance in reading and completing forms
Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST: is an initiative designed to promote compliance with the Fair Housing Act design and construction requirements. http://www.fairhousingfirst.com
Housing Equality Center: the oldest fair housing council in the nation. http://www.equalhousing.org
HUD Fair Housing–It’s Your Right: explains rights if you feel you have been discriminated against in housing. http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/FHLaws/yourrights
National Fair Housing Advocate Online: a resource designed to serve both the fair housing advocacy community and the general public with timely news and information regarding the issues of housing discrimination. http://www.fairhousing.com
Where to file a fair housing complaint:
Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission www.phrc.state.pa.us
U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development www.hud.gov/complaints/housediscrim.cfm
County and region-based fair housing agencies: PA Fair Housing Support Agencies