Housing Discrimination

Landlords, condominium management companies, and homeowners’ associations cannot discriminate against people with disabilities. No one may refuse to rent or sell housing make housing unavailable, or set different rules or conditions for the sale or rental or use of housing because of your disability. 

The FHA rules identify two main responsibilities for landlords and building owners:

1.  Reasonable modifications to the premises

Landlords and condominium managers must allow tenants to modify their own rental unit or condominium.

(a) It shall be unlawful for any person to refuse to permit, at the expense of a handicapped person, reasonable modifications of existing premises, occupied or to be occupied by a handicapped person, if the proposed modifications may be necessary to afford the handicapped person full enjoyment of the premises of a dwelling.  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.

24 C.F.R. § 100.203

For example, deaf tenants are permitted to install doorbells with visible strobe lights. However, the tenant must pay for the doorbell and strobe light equipment and installation, and may have to restore the property to its original condition when they leave the property. The landlord cannot prevent the tenant from installing the special equipment.

2.  Reasonable accommodations in policies and services

Landlords, homeowner associations and condominium management companies must also make reasonable accommodations in the rules of the building or community or in services when necessary.

It shall be unlawful for any person to refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford a handicapped person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling unit.

24 C.F.R. § 100.204(a).

For example:

  • A building with a “no pets” policy must allow tenants with disabilities to keep  a service animal. A building or landlord may not charge the tenant with a disability a “pet fee” for the service animal. 
  • A building with unassigned parking must honor a request for an assigned parking space from a tenant who has mobility disabilities.
  • A building or community that has an intercom or other audio-based security entry system must provide an equally effective alternative for deaf or hard of hearing visitors or tenants to enter.
  • A condominium or homeowner’s association must provide interpreters to allow deaf or hard of hearing people to participate in the association meetings.

New Construction

Buildings built after March 13, 1991 with more than four units must be designed and constructed to be accessible to persons with disabilities, including common use areas such as building entrances, recreation areas, and laundry areas.  

Public Housing

Public housing have greater responsibilities to tenants with disabilities.  Landlords in public housing that receive any funding from the Section 8 housing program or other programs of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) must pay for the installation of flashing doorbells and visual notification systems and other modifications. Qualified interpreters must also be provided when necessary for effective communication.

State and Local Smoke Detector Laws

Some states also have laws that protect people with disabilities from discrimination in housing.  Many states and counties require landlords to provide free visual smoke detection alarms for deaf or hard of hearing tenants, at no cost to the tenant.

Complaints about Housing Discrimination

Complaints about housing discrimination can be filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Contact HUD or find the name of the HUD office closest to you. You may also file a lawsuit in state or federal court.

ASL Videos

HUD created 12 videos in American Sign Language (with english captions) with topics covering mortgage loan, lending discrimination, homeowner’s insurance, lending transactions, complaint form 903, fair housing and equal opportunity, housing discrimination, effective communication, reasonable accommodations, reasonable modifications, and local fair housing organizations.