Reasonable Accommodations and Accessibility in Housing


What is discrimination in housing?

Discrimination in housing occurs when a landlord or property owner will not rent or sell to a person or family because of a particular characteristic such as race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability.

How is discrimination in housing prevented?

Major pieces of legislation that prevent discrimination in housing include the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. These acts have led to laws and standards that:

  • prohibit discrimination based on disability
  • define how new housing* and renovating older housing must meet accessibility standards

 New housing is considered anything built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991.

What are reasonable accommodations in housing?

A landlord must allow a person with a disability to make reasonable accommodations if necessary for the person to occupy the unit. The person with the disability must pay for reasonable accommodations and restore the property to its original condition upon moving out. Another example of a reasonable accommodation allows a service dog to reside with its owner in a pet free building.

What does it mean to be accessible?

The Fair Housing Act outlines basic accessibility as well as the legal rights of persons with disabilities and the responsibilities of property owners. Federal regulations have been written that give consistent and concrete direction to home and commercial builders on construction of accessible buildings and units.

The seven basic requirements of fair and accessible housing are:

  1. An accessible building entrance on an accessible route.
  2. Accessible public and common use areas.
  3. Usable doors (usable by a person in a wheelchair).
  4. Accessible route into and through the dwelling unit.
  5. Light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls in accessible locations.
  6. Reinforced walls in bathrooms for later installation of grab bars.
  7. Usable kitchens and bathrooms.

Standards have been developed for builders to use during the design, construction and alteration of commercial and residential properties to ensure that accessibility is the same across the United States. These standards provide exact measurements and graphic illustrations so there is no mistake by what it meant by the specifications.

Who can help me if I think I have been discriminated against in housing?

The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) is a consortium of more than 220 private, non-profit fair housing organizations, state and local civil rights agencies, and individuals from throughout the United States. The primary goal of the NFHA is to eliminate housing discrimination and ensure equal housing opportunities for all people.

Many of the local fair housing groups assist individuals and families to file complaints if they believe they have been discriminated against because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability. Fair housing centers do research, education, advocacy, enforcement and public policy initiatives in order to achieve the goal of housing for all.

Where can I go for more help?

Laws and Rules

Accessibility Standards and Specifications

Where can I go for help if I believe I have been discriminated against in housing?

Recommend this content Reasonable Accommodations and Accessibility in Housing

Date posted: January 27, 2012. Content created by The Developmental Disabilities Institute at Wayne State University. Last updated: October 2, 2012.

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