This April we celebrate the 44th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act – a powerful law that fights housing discrimination and opens doors for people with disabilities across the U.S.
What is The Fair Housing Act?
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex (gender), familial status, and disability. Under the Fair Housing Act, it is unlawful to discriminate in any aspect of selling or renting housing or to deny a dwelling to a buyer or renter because of the disability of that person, a person associated with the buyer or renter, or a person who plans to live in the residence. For example:
- The Fair Housing Act requires landlords to allow tenants with disabilities to make reasonable access-related modifications to their private living space and common spaces (landlords are not required to pay for the changes).
- The Fair Housing Act requires landlords to make reasonable exceptions in their policies and operations to afford people with disabilities the opportunity to use and enjoy their housing. A landlord with a “no pets” policy may be required to grant an exception for a tenant who uses a service animal.
- The Fair Housing Act prohibits lenders from imposing different application or qualification criteria on people with disabilities, or inquiring about the nature or severity of a disability (except in limited circumstances). The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently charged Bank of America with discrimination against people with disabilities.
- The Fair Housing Act requires that new multifamily housing with four or more units be designed and built to allow access for people with disabilities.
It’s been over 4 decades since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act into law. There’s much to celebrate, but also much work to do. People with disabilities increasingly want to live in the community in a home that they rent or own. Unfortunately, far too many find that discrimination limits their options: disability-based discrimination is the top reason for Fair Housing Act complaints submitted to HUD.
What can you do?
If you suspect discrimination, you can file a complaint with HUD online or by calling 800-669-9777, or TTY 800-927-9275. You may also file a lawsuit in court. Contact a local fair housing agency for guidance and help filing a complaint.