The goal of the Fair Housing Act is to ensure “no person shall be subjected to discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin in the sale, rental or advertising of dwellings, in the provision of brokerage services, or in the availability of residential real-estate related transactions.” With respect to people with disabilities, the Act serves to:
- Give people with disabilities opportunities to choose where they want to live;
- Assure that reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications are made so that a person with a disability can secure and use housing as fully as a person without a disability.
- Assure that persons with disabilities are able to live free from intimidation and harassment; and
- Require that multi-family housing built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, has certain accessible features (e.g., a usable kitchen for a person who uses a wheelchair).
The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing providers from discriminating against applicants or residents because of their disability or the disability of anyone associated with them and from treating persons with disabilities less favorably than others because of their disability. The Act also prohibits housing providers from refusing residency to persons with disabilities, or, with some narrow exceptions, placing conditions on their residency, because those persons may require reasonable modifications or reasonable accommodations.
With respect to reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications:
- The Act makes it unlawful for any person to refuse “to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford . . . person(s) [with disabilities] equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.”
- The Act makes it unlawful for any person to refuse “to permit, at the expense of the [disabled] person, reasonable modifications of existing premises occupied or to be occupied by such person if such modifications may be necessary to afford such person full enjoyment of the premises, except that, in the case of a rental, the landlord may where it is reasonable to do so condition permission for a modification on the renter agreeing to restore the interior of the premises to the condition that existed before the modification, reasonable wear and tear excepted.”
It is important for all real estate professionals to remember that the federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability.
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