Disability and Fair Housing

Who is a person with a disability?

The Fair Housing Act defines a person with a disability to include (1) individuals with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; (2) individuals who are regarded as having such an impairment; and (3) individuals with a record of such an impairment. Under fair housing laws, the definition of disability is very broad and does not just apply to someone with a physical disability or someone who receives Social Security Disability Income.

Some examples of disability include, but are not limited to, mobility impairments, mental health disabilities, developmental disabilities, sensory impairments, cancer, HIV/AIDS, autism, multiple sclerosis, and many more.

Disability Housing Rights

Federal law provides the following rights to person with disabilities, regardless of whether they live in public or private housing.

Federal law prohibits discrimination against person with disabilities
It is unlawful for a housing provider to refuse to rent or sell to a person simply because of a disability. A housing provider may not impose different application or qualification criteria, rental fees or sales prices, and rental or sales terms or conditions than those required of or provided to persons who are not disabled.

Federal law requires reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities.
A reasonable accommodation is a change in rules, policies, practices, or services so that a person with a disability will have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling unit or common space. Reserving a parking space in front of the entrance to a unit for a tenant with mobility impairment is an example of reasonable accommodation.

    • Assistance animals are reasonable accommodations.
      An assistance animal is not a pet. It is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability. Assistance animals perform many disability-related functions, including but not limited to, guiding individuals who are blind or have low vision, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to sounds, providing protection or rescue assistance, pulling a wheelchair, fetching items, alerting persons to impending seizures, or providing emotional support to persons with disabilities who have a disability-related need for such support. For purposes of reasonable accommodation requests, an assistance animal is not required to be individually trained or certified. While dogs are the most common type of assistance animal, other animals can also be assistance animals.

Federal law requires reasonable modifications for persons with disabilities.
A reasonable modification is a structural modification that is made to allow persons with disabilities the full enjoyment of the housing and related facilities. Install a ramp into a building, lowering the entry threshold of a unit, or installing grab bars in a bathroom are examples of reasonable modification.

Federal law requires that new covered multifamily housing be designed and constructed to be accessible.
In covered multifamily housing consisting of 4 or more units with an elevator built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, all units must comply with the following seven design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act:

• Accessible Entrance on an Accessible Route
• Accessible Public and Common-Use Areas
• Usable Doors
• Accessible Route Into and Through the Dwelling Unit
• Accessible Light Switches, Electrical Outlets, Thermostats, and Environmental Controls
• Reinforced Walls in Bathrooms
• Usable Kitchens and Bathrooms

In covered multifamily housing without an elevator that consists of 4 or more units built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, all ground floor units must comply with the Fair Housing Act seven design and construction requirements.

For information on how to comply with the physical accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act, visit the Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST Web site.

How to Request a Reasonable Accommodation or Modification

If you are in need of an accommodation or modification at your unit, you should make a request in writing to your housing provider. Your housing provider cannot ask you questions about your diagnosis or the extent of your disability. However, your housing provider can request a professional, such as a doctor, counselor, social worker, or case manager, to support your request with documentation if the need for your accommodation or modification is not visible. You should be prepared to obtain this documentation upon making your request, or submit it along with your written request.

You could be responsible for the cost of any necessary modifications at your unit; your housing provider may only have a responsibility to permit your request, not pay for it. If you live in subsidized housing, public housing, or your housing provider receives federal funding, then the housing provider may be responsible for paying for the modifications. If you are using a Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8 Voucher), the housing provider is not responsible for paying for the modifications.

If you have any questions about who is responsible for the payment of a modification, please contact us.

Contact us if you feel that you may have experienced housing discrimination based on your disability or you are in need of an accommodation or modification.

Click here to request assistance of call us at 330.376.6191.

Sources: All information on this page was retrieved from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website at
https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/disabilities/inhousing on July 21, 2022.