Fair Housing Act and discrimination against the disabled
Recently on out disability forum a claimant asked, I am a disabled veteran also receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). I am currently in a wheelchair, and I have asked for several accommodations from my landlord. He has refused my requests. I understand that under the Fair Housing Act I may have the legal right to ask for some accommodations. What legal accommodations can I ask for due to my disability and can he refuse to make the accommodations?
Fair Housing Act and your disability
Many disabled persons do not realize that under the Fair Housing Act it is illegal for a landlord to discriminate against tenants due to their race, color, religion, familial status, national origin, or disability.
Discrimination against those with disabilities can include the refusal to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services when such accommodations may be necessary to afford a person with a disability the equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.
Although there are specific exceptions within the Act, the Act generally applies to both public and privately owned housing (i.e. property owners, housing managers, homeowners and condominium associations, lenders, real estate agents, and brokerage services), housing provided under the Section 8 voucher assistance program, and other housing which is subsidized by the federal government.
Are you covered under the Fair Housing Act for your disability?
Before seeking any type of legal assistance to enforce the Fair Housing Act, however, its important to understand not only the provisions provided under the Act, but also whether or not you qualify and should expect reasonable accommodations.
Under the Act, disabled persons can include anyone with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of their major life activities. You must also have been diagnosed and have medical evidence to support your claim of disability.
Given that Social Security Administration (SSA) has reviewed your disability information and is currently paying you Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you should have sufficient evidence that you are disabled and qualify for accommodation under the Act.
What reasonable accommodations can I request?
Now, back to the question of reasonable accommodations. Reasonable accommodations must be made if the accommodation is request is related to the disability, it does not pose an undue financial or administrative burden on the landlord, and the request does not constitute a fundamental alteration of the providers operations.
For example, lets say your apartment complex had parking near your apartment but the parking was never assigned and was always full. It might be reasonable for you to request to have a designated parking space near your apartment due to the difficulty you might have entering and exiting your vehicle. Other tenants with a service dog might also reasonably request that they are allowed to keep their dog despite a no pet policy at the apartment complex. Both of these requests are reasonable and would cost the landlord very little.
Other requests such as significant modifications to the structure of a unit or personalized services each day from a security guard, however, may be deemed unreasonable to and expensive.
Under the Fair Housing Act disabled renters cannot be discriminated against and may be allowed to ask their landlord to make reasonable accommodations for their disability.
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