Handicap Access Requirements for Residential Buildings

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The Federal Fair Housing Act imposes handicap access requirements for residential buildings, including rental units. Many states have also passed legislation with its own requirements. Your landlord may have to comply with the federal requirements, depending on the type of apartment and the number of rental units in your building. This article will discuss the minimum requirements according to the Act.

Accessible Building Entrance

There has to be at least one entrance to the building on an accessible route. The route has to be clear of any obstructions and it has to be continuous so that someone in a wheelchair can navigate it easily. If you have another disability, then you should be able to get to the building entrance using the route without difficulty. For example, the entire route may need to include a ramp and railings or a lift.

Usable Common Use Areas

You should be able to access any common areas easily. That means the interior routes to the common areas has to meet handicap access requirements. For example, multi-level buildings need at least one elevator. The corridors should has have ramps and rails where appropriate so that you can get to the common use area without problems. You should be able to  use the common area once you get there. A tiny space that doesn’t allow you to get around with your wheelchair probably violates the requirements of the Act.

Usable Doors

One of the first violations that you’ll notice immediately if your landlord is violating the Act are narrow doors. They need to be wide enough for a wheelchair to pass through. If they are not, then the doors are not sufficient to meet the federal requirements for handicap access.

Accessible Route in and throughout the Apartment

Getting into your apartment is not enough. You also have to be able to move around with a wheelchair or there should be other reasonable accommodations if you have another disability. The doorways and hallways should be wide enough, and you need to be able to move around rooms with ease.

Internal Environmental Controls and Outlets

The Act requires that you should be able to access electrical outlets easily. The requirements also extend to thermostats and light switches. It’s primarily a safety issue, because you could fall and injure yourself trying to reach something that’s not in a convenient location.

Grab Bars

Bathrooms need grab bars so that you can get on and off the toilet without falling. The bars should also be installed in showers or tubs. The landlord needs to make sure that the walls are reinforced so that it can bear your weight.

Usable Kitchen and Bathrooms

If you cannot move around the kitchen or bathroom with a wheelchair, then it’s not usable. It’s a violation of the Act to rent a unit that doesn’t have a usable kitchen or bathroom. These rooms need enough space for you to maneuver around.

The Act does give landlords a “safe harbor” so that they don’t have to meet all of the federal requirements, if the state requirements meet the safe harbor rules that are outlined in the Fair Housing Act Design Manual.  If the building does not meet the federal requirements or state safe harbor rules for handicap access, then the landlord will be subject to fines, and you can sue him for damages.

3 Responses to “Handicap Access Requirements for Residential Buildings”

  1. July 18, 2011 at 8:41 pm, PATRICIA ROSS said:

    I LIVE AT 108 14TH AVE N.E WASECA,MINNESOTA 56093 I AM DISABLED I HAD MY LEFT LEG AMPUTATED OFF BELOW THE KNEE I AN WHEEL CHAIR OUND AND I HAD TO GET DOCTOR SLIPS FOR EVERYTHING I NEED BECAUSE I AM IN A 2 BEDROOM APARTMENT I HAVE A DOG SHE IS A THERAPUITCT DOG FOR ME I LIVE WITH MY FIANCE THAT IS ALSO DISABLED WE ARE LOOKING FOR A DIFFERENT APARTMENT IN A DIFFERENT STATE THAT HAS HANDICAP ASSESSORIES AND A PLACE WHERE WE ARE ON BOTTOM LEVEL OR A ELEVATOR IN THE BUILDING AND ACCEPTS MY PET DOG I AM ON SOCIAL SECURITY AND MY FIANCE IS GETTING GENERAL ASSISTANCE FROM THE WELFARE OFFICE HE HAS BEEN TRYING TO GET ON SOCIAL SECURITY SINCE 2006 THEY KEEP DENY HIM HE JUST HAD A COMPLETE KNEE REPLACEMENT JUNE 18 OF 2011 HE IS ALSO IN A WHEEL CHAIR SO IF YOU COULD HELP US OUT FINDING A 2 BEDROOM HANDICAP APARTMENT IN ANOTHER STATE PLEASE THANKS PATRICIA ROSS AND QUENTIN BARNETT II

    Reply

  2. May 10, 2013 at 11:24 am, Tim said:

    i live in a condo and i am in a scooter do to my back and i just want to know my rights because there is no way for me to get in and out so can some one help me and tell me my right s. i am in canada

    Reply

  3. October 10, 2013 at 1:07 pm, Darius DiTullio said:

    My mother lives on West 72nd Street in Manhattan. The building was built in 1905. Very large building. There are three steps that have to be climbed before you can enter or exit the lobby. No ramp and no other way. My mother is in a wheelchair. I just spoke to the building supervisor to request to the landlord that they supply a small portable ramp but he refused. He said that there are no laws the require this for old buildings. No one alone in a wheelchair could ever handle do this. Even with someone pushing her, it is quite difficult. He also said that no law would be binding to have a small portable ramp for an old building. Is this true? If so, How would someone in a wheelchair come in and out of the building? This doesn’t seem right.
    If someone could guide me as to what the actual requirements/laws are for a building like this and where I could go or whom I could contact to enforce this, I’d be very grateful.

    Thanks so much!!!

    Darius

    Reply

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