Despite legislation designed to protect you from housing discrimination, disability discrimination is still common. Fortunately, you have recourse. By understanding your rights and knowing how to assert them, you can rectify the situation when your rights have been violated.
Disability Discrimination in Housing Laws
In the U.S., the Fair Housing Act (FHA) is the federal law that protects certain groups of people from housing discrimination. Disability is one of the protected classes under this law. As a disabled person, the FHA grants you rights specific to disability. By familiarizing yourself with the FHA, you can assert your rights when applying to rent an apartment.
Enforcement of the Fair Housing Act
The FHA is enforced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD considers you disabled if you have a physical, mental or developmental disability. They also place you in this class if you have an HIV/AIDS-related illness or if you are a recovering alcoholic or drug addict.
Understanding Your Rights
The FHA guarantees that, as a disabled person, you have equal housing opportunities. This means that your prospective landlord can’t refuse to rent to you because of your disability. They can refuse to rent to you for other reasons, such as income requirements, so you must be certain that their reason for denying your lease application was your disability, and not some other factor.
To determine the cause of their refusal to rent to you, consider the overall situation. Did you meet the income requirements to rent the apartment? Do you have a positive rental history? If the answer to these questions is affirmative, then disability discrimination may have been involved.
Decide whether the apartment would have to be modified in order for you to live there, or whether you need an exception to the apartment building’s rules. If so, these changes might have been the basis for the denial. In this case, you may want to confront the landlord directly. Remind them that the law guarantees you the right to make improvements to the apartment at your own expense, if the changes are necessary for you to live at that location. And, the law also requires the landlord to make accommodations for your disability with respect to the rules. In cases where you can’t resolve the matter with the landlord, consider filing a complaint with HUD.
Filing A Disability Discrimination Complaint
Filing a complaint with HUD is free. A local disability advocacy group may be able to assist you in filing a complaint, as well as determining whether your rights have been violated.
To file your complaint, contact HUD via telephone, mail or through their website. After providing the initial information about your situation, a HUD representative will determine whether your complaint is valid, and if so, will launch an investigation. Then, HUD will work with you and your landlord to resolve the matter fairly for both parties. When discriminated against for your disability, first assert your rights, then file a complaint with HUD to ensure that you are not denied the opportunity to rent an apartment where you want to live.
Lisa Bernstein: As a long-time apartment dweller and seasoned condominium trustee, I have dealt with numerous landlord-tenant, property management, and day-to-day apartment complex issues. My extensive, direct experience has led to invaluable insights into apartment life from both the tenant and management perspectives.