Fair Housing Laws Explained

By | June 4, 2014

Understanding your legal rights and responsibilities is the first in ensuring that your rights are respected. Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act contains the Fair Housing Act which bans any form of discrimination based on color, race, religion, sex, nationality or disability. In addition, the act also offers protection for families with children.

New Construction

According to the Fair Housing Act, new construction requirements only apply to buildings with four or more units that offered housing after 1991. Some of the requirements include:

-Persons with disabilities must have access to public and common areas.

-Hallways and doorways must be wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs.

In addition, each unit must have:

-A route that is accessible into and through the unit.

-Equipment such as electrical outlets, switches, environmental controls and thermostats must all be accessible.

-Bathroom walls have to be reinforced to allow installation of grab bars.

-Kitchens and bathrooms must be able to accommodate wheelchairs.

In addition, the requirements of the act are applicable to each floor unit if there is an elevator. If not, they apply only to the ground floor units.

Reasonable Accommodations

Reasonable accommodation refers to a change, adaptation, exception or modification that allows a person with disability to use a residence. The term also applies to common spaces and public building areas.

According to the Fair Housing Act, building owners and landlords must make reasonable accommodations that ensure persons with disabilities have equal opportunities to use and enjoy their space of dwelling.

Examples of reasonable accommodations include:

-Allowing a disabled tenant to mail the rent instead of taking it to the office.

-Providing a parking space that is near to the entry and exit point of the building.

-Revising the no pet’s policy by allowing a disabled person to keep quality of life animals.

-A health aide, nurse or therapist should not be considered as an additional guest or tenant.

-Allowing the disabled individual to move to a suitable unit if available.

-Allowing for the release of a disabled tenant from their lease requirements because of their condition.

Reasonable Modifications

This refers to a physical change made to a disabled tenants’ living space. In accordance with the Fair Housing Act, owners and landlords must make reasonable modifications for disabled tenants.

Examples of reasonable modifications include:

-Installation of ramps to allow wheelchair access.

-Installation of lever door openers as opposed to knob openers.

-Having wider door openings by installing wider pocket doors and swing-away hinges.

-Installing shower stalls that are wheelchair accessible.

-Installation of grab bars and hand rails.

-Removal of under the sink cupboards in bathrooms.

-Lowering of light switches.

Disabled individuals can access funds to help them with modifications. You can check out the Center for Independent Living in your area or visit your county government offices to request financial assistance for your modifications.