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Chapter 5 - Fair Housing; Laws, Executive Orders and Questions
The following section from HUD contains a synopsis of the laws, frequently asked questions (FAQ)’s and Executive Orders pertaining to housing. All of these are provided as reference material. These laws, FAQ’s and Executive Orders explain the rights of individuals with and without disabilities in housing. For clarification regarding these laws, questions or orders, please contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at http://www.hud.gov/ or call 1-800-669-9777 (1-817-978-5595/TTY).
Disability Rights in Housing
Definition of Disability: Federal laws define a person with a disability as "Any person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of such impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment."
In general, a physical or mental impairment includes hearing, mobility and visual impairments, chronic alcoholism, chronic mental illness, AIDS, AIDS Related Complex, and mental retardation that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Major life activities include walking, talking, hearing, seeing, breathing, learning, performing manual tasks, and caring for oneself.
Disability Rights in Private and Public Housing: Regardless of whether you live in private or public housing, Federal laws provide the following rights to persons with disabilities:
In covered multifamily housing without an elevator that consists of 4 or more units built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, all ground floor units must comply with the Fair Housing Act seven design and construction requirements.
For information on how to comply with the physical accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act, visit the Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST Web site.
These requirements apply to most public and private housing. However, there are limited exemptions for owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, single-family housing sold or rented without the use of a broker, and housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members.
If you live in Federally assisted multifamily housing consisting of 5 or more units, 5 percent of these units (or at least one unit whichever is greater) must meet more stringent physical accessibility requirements. Additionally, 2 percent of units (or at least one unit whichever is greater) must be accessible for persons with visual or hearing disabilities. For more information,visit Section 504 Questions and Answers.
People with Disabilities in Federally Assisted Housing: Federal law makes it illegal for an otherwise qualified individual with a disability to be excluded, solely because of his or her disability, from programs receiving federal financial assistance. For more information on the rights of persons with disabilities in federally assisted housing as well as the responsibilities of housing providers who receive federal financial assistance, visit our Section 504: Disability Rights in HUD Programs site.
Zoning and Land Use: It is unlawful for local governments to utilize land use and zoning policies to keep persons with disabilities from locating to their area. For more information, see the Joint Statement of DOJ and HUD on Group Homes, Local Land Use, and the Fair Housing Act.
State and Local Laws: Many states and localities have fair housing laws that are substantially equivalent to the Federal Fair Housing Act. Some of these laws prohibit discrimination on additional bases, such as source of income or marital status. Some of these laws may impose more stringent design and construction standards for new multifamily housing.
The Americans with Disabilities Act: In most cases, the ADA does not apply to residential housing. Rather, the ADA applies to places of public accommodation such as restaurants, retail stores, libraries, and hospitals as well as commercial facilities such as offices buildings, warehouses, and factories. However, Title III of the ADA covers public and common use areas at housing developments when these public areas are, by their nature, open to the general public. For example, it covers the rental office since the rental office is open to the general public.
Title II of the ADA applies to all programs, services, and activities provided or made available by public entities. This includes housing when the housing is provided or made available by a public entity. For example, housing covered by Title II of the ADA includes public housing authorities that meet the ADA definition of "public entity," and housing operated by States or units of local government, such as housing on a State university campus.
For more information on the Americans with Disabilities Act, visit the Department of Justice ADA Home Page.