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Disability In Housing


Disability In Housing


The Fair Housing Act provides specific protections regardless of disability.

Disability is defined as:

  • Physical or mental impairment which limits one or more major life activities, OR
  • A record of such an impairment, OR
  • Being regarded as having such an impairment
  • Includes people who have temporary disabilities


Verifying a disability:

If a person has a visible disability and their request is reasonably tied to their disability, then no further verification is needed. However, if the disability is not obvious, or the connection between the disability and what the person with the disability is requesting is not clear, then additional verification may be necessary.


NOTE: Verification can come from any of the following neutral third parties:

  • Doctors, nurses, or other medical staff
  • Mental health professionals
  • Clergy or religious leaders
  • Social and case workers
  • Caregivers


Disabilities covered by fair housing laws (examples)

  • Orthopedic and visual impairments
  • Speech and hearing Impairments
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Autism
  • Epilepsy
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Cancer
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Heart Diseases
  • Diabetes
  • HIV infection
  • Intellectual or developmental disability
  • Emotional Illness
  • Drug Addiction (other than addiction caused by current, illegal use of a controlled substance)
  • Alcoholism



Under the Fair Housing Act, housing providers cannot:

  • Deny entry due to disability
  • Ask about an applicant’s medical history, duration or severity of the disability
  • Apply different terms or conditions to persons with disabilities
  • Steer individuals to certain neighborhoods or areas of a complex because of their disability
  • Make disparaging comments about the appearance or behavior of a person with a disability



In some instances, housing providers may ask for further information about a person’s disability if it will afford the person greater access to housing or housing-related services.


Reasonable accommodations and modifications:

  • Reasonable Accommodations

A change, exception, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice or service that may be necessary for a person with a disability to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, including common areas

  • Reasonable Modifications

A structural change made to an existing premises occupied by a person with a disability in order to afford such a person the full enjoyment of the premises.


Reasonable accommodation can be denied by a housing provider if,

  • The person is not disabled OR
  • The need for the request is not tied to the person’s disability, OR
  • The request is an undue financial and administrative burden, OR
  • The request fundamentally alters the nature of the business


How many RA/RMs can a person have?

  • No limit but each request must be “reasonable”.
  • Multiple assistance animals allowed, but the note must indicate the number of animals needed.
  • Example: one disabled resident may need an emotional support dog, an ADA service dog, written reminders for when rent is due, and a ramp built for her back porch.


Some potential signs of disability discrimination could be[1]:

  • Skipping applicants on a waiting list due to disability status
  • Setting different rents or fees for tenants based on disability
  • Delaying repair requests based on a tenant’s perceived disability or perceived lack thereof
  • Assigning disabled tenants to the first floor of a complex
  • Requiring additional unnecessary verification or creating additional unnecessary hurdles before a person with a disability can obtain the requested accommodation or modification.



HUD assistance animal guidance

7 basic design and construction requirements

Fair Housing Act Design Manual


The work that provided the bases for this publication was supported by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations continued in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government.