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Frequently Asked Questions

Fair Housing
 

*      Who does fair housing laws apply to?

*      What actions may constitute a violation of fair housing laws?

*      Do fair housing laws provide protection against discrimination based on a person’s own disability?

*      What is the definition of disability?

*      The Fair Housing Act does not protect the following individuals:

*      Do I have to disclose my disability?

*      What questions may a landlord ask?

*      What questions can’t a landlord ask?

*      Can a landlord reject my application because of my disability?

*      Can a landlord require me to meet different terms and conditions from those other tenants must meet?

*      Are there any accessibility requirements?

*      What are the accessibility requirements for new housing?

*      What are reasonable modifications?

*      Who must pay for the reasonable modification changes?

*      What is reasonable accommodation?

*      What if my landlord refuses to acknowledge my request for reasonable accommodation?

*      What questions can’t a landlord ask to families with children?

 

 

Who does fair housing laws apply to?
 

Fair Housing laws apply to all parties involved in the process of securing a home. This includes: people or corporations selling real property, renting properties, real estate agents, and mortgage and insurance companies.


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What actions may constitute a violation of fair housing laws?
 

§  Refusal to rent or sell housing
§  Refusal to negotiate for housing
§  Making housing unavailable
§  Denying a housing unit
§ 
Setting different terms, conditions or privileges for sale or rental of a housing unit
§ 
Providing different housing services or facilities
§ 
Falsely denying housing is available for inspection, sale or rental
§ 
Persuading owners to sell or rent (blockbusting) their homes
§  Denying access to membership in a facility or service (such as a multiple listing service) related to the sale or rental of housing
§ 
Eviction
§  Coercion or intimidation
§  Rent increase
§  "Steering" or persuading certain groups of people to live in certain areas.
§ 
Refusing to make a reasonable accommodation in rules or polices as needed to provide equal access to persons with disabilities
§ 
Refusing to allow a person with a disability to make reasonable modifications, such as adding a wheelchair ramp or grab bars in the bathroom


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Do fair housing laws provide protection against discrimination based on a person’s own disability?

Yes. The law provides protection against discrimination based on a person’s own disability or history of disability; association with a persons who has a disability; such as a family member with HIV/ AIDS; or the disability of a person who will reside in a house or apartment after it is sold or rented. The Fair Housing Act also prohibits landlords and others from discriminating against people who are believed to have disabilities, but in fact do not.

 

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What is the definition of disability?
 

A person with a “handicap” or “disability” is defined in the Fair Housing Act as someone:
§ 
with a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities”.
§  who has a record of having such an impairment.
§  who is regarded as having such an impairment.


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The Fair Housing Act does not protect the following individuals:

§ 
Individuals “whose tenancy would constitute a direct threat to the health and safety of other individuals, or whose tenancy would result in substantial physical damage to the property of others.” A landlord can treat a person as a direct threat only if there is recent objective evidence of behavior that will put others at risk of harm.
§ 
An individual if being a transvestite is the person’s sole basis for claiming coverage.
§ 
Current illegal drug users.
§ 
Persons convinced of illegal manufacture and/ or distribution of controlled substances.

 

Please note: Generally speaking, Fair Housing Act does cover victims of alcoholism, whether or not in recover, as well as former drug users who have successfully completed an addiction-recovery program.

 
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Do I have to disclose my disability?
 

Even if a landlord does not refuse to rent to you, he may still violate the Fair Housing Act by asking illegal questions about your disability. Generally, a landlord may not ask if you have a disability. Also, you may not be asked for certain kinds of general information about yourself that relates to disability.

 

 

What questions may a landlord ask?
 

A landlord may ask for information to show that you can meet the same obligations as any other tenant, with or without a disability.

 

What questions can’t a landlord ask?
 

§  “Do you have a disability?”
§ 
“How severe is your disability?”
§ 
“May I have permission to see your medical records?”
§ 
“Are you capable of living independently?”
§ 
“Have you ever been hospitalized because of a mental disability?”
§ 
“Have you ever been in a drug rehabilitation program?”
§ 
“Do you take medications?”
§ 
Why do you receive SSI?” 

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Can a landlord reject my application because of my disability?

In general, no. But, while disability status is generally irrelevant to a person’s qualification for tenancy, past or current conduct can justify denial of an application. For example: If your living there would be a direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals.

 
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Can a landlord require me to meet different terms and conditions from those other tenants must meet?

No, a landlord cannot require you to meet different terms or conditions such as:

§ 
Banning people with disabilities from pools, clubhouses, or other common areas.
§ 
Charging extra fees for maintenance calls made by people with disabilities.
§ 
Making threatening or intimidating remarks or conduct made by management or by other tenants directed at a person with a disability.
§ 
Requiring people with mobility impairments to live in ground floor units. 

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Are there any accessibility requirements?
 

Multifamily housing built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991 must have certain accessibility and adaptability features. The requirements apply to all units in buildings with elevators and ground floor units in buildings without elevators. The requirements apply whether the multifamily housing is being built for rental or for sale.

 
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What are the accessibility requirements for new housing?
 

New multifamily housing with four or more units, built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, must include:
§  A building entrance that is wide enough for a wheelchair accessed via a route without steps.
§ 
Accessible public and common-use areas.
§ 
Doors that allow passage by a person in a wheelchair.
§ 
An accessible route into and through the dwelling.
§ 
Light switches, thermostats and other environmental controls in accessible locations.
§ 
Reinforced bathroom walls for later installation of grab bars.
§ 
Kitchens and bathrooms that allow a wheelchair to maneuver about the space. 

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What are reasonable modifications?
 

Reasonable modifications are structural changes to a dwelling or common use area to use and enjoy the housing. A landlord can condition approval of a modification on assurance that the modification will be done properly and will comply with all necessary building and architectural codes. The landlord can also require that, when you move out, you leave the unit in a condition acceptable to someone who doesn’t need the modifications you have made.


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Who must pay for the reasonable modification changes?


The answer depends on the type of housing you are renting and the laws that apply to it. A landlord who is subject only to the Fair Housing Act does not have to pay for the changes you request. If a covered multi-family dwelling does not meet accessibility standards, the housing provider must pay the cost of bringing it into compliance.

 
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What is reasonable accommodation?
 

A reasonable accommodation is a change in rules, practices, policies, or the way services are provided. With a few exceptions, the Fair Housing Act requires landlords to grant reasonable accommodations in order to enable a person with a disability to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling unit or any of a development’s public areas (such as a community or laundry room). Reasonable accommodations may be requested when someone is applying for housing, during tenancy or to prevent eviction.  You can asked for a change in any rule, policy or procedure as long as the need for a change is linked to your disability.


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What if my landlord refuses to acknowledge my request for reasonable accommodation?

Your landlord cannot ignore your request for an accommodation. If he does, you may file a discrimination complaint.


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What a landlord can’t say or ask to families with children?
 

§  “I don’t think your kids would like it here.”
§ 
“Our insurance does not cover renting to families with children.”
§ 
“Children cannot use the pool or the club house.”
§  “I wouldn’t feel comfortable renting to a toddler on the third floor.”
§ 
“There is an additional security deposit of $100 per child.”
§ 
“This is a quite complex, we don’t want children here.”
§  “It is not safe for your children because we don’t have a fence around this pool.”
§ 
“Kids are only allowed to live in Building B.”
§ 
“Your son and daughter need separate bedrooms.”

 

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