Disability Protections Under the Fair Housing Act

By Lane V. Erickson, Attorney

The federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) provides protections to those with disabilities. A person qualifies under the FHA disability protections when: (1) they have a physical or mental disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities; (2) have a record of such a disability; or (3) are regarded as having such a disability. When a tenant qualifies for a disability under any of these three the landlord is prohibited from:

  • Refusing to let the tenant make reasonable modifications to the dwelling or common use areas, at the tenant’s expense, if necessary for the disabled tenant to use the housing. (Where reasonable, the landlord may permit changes only if the tenant agrees to restore the property to its original condition when the tenant moves.
  • Refusing to make reasonable accommodations in the rules, policies, practices or services if necessary for the disabled tenant to use the rented housing. (Examples: A building with a “no pets” policy must still allow a visually impaired tenant to keep a guide dog. Additionally, an apartment complex that offers tenants ample, unassigned parking must still honor a request from a mobility-impaired tenant for a reserved space near her apartment if such a space is necessary to assure that the tenant can have access to her apartment.)

The FHA applies additional requirements to buildings, homes, complexes or the like that were constructed after March 13, 1991. If such a building has an elevator and four or more units then the landlord must make sure that the building complies with the following:

  • All public and common areas must be accessible to persons with disabilities;
  • Doors and hallways must be wide enough for wheelchairs;
  • All units must have:
    • An accessible route into and through the unit;
    • Accessible light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls;
    • Reinforced bathroom walls to allow later installation of grab bars; and
    • Kitchens and bathrooms that can be used by people in wheelchairs.

If a building constructed after March 13, 1991, with four or more units has no elevator then these standards apply to the ground floor units. Additionally, the above listed standards for new buildings do not replace any additional or more stringent standards made applicable by State or local law.

If you are a landlord or a disabled renter, and have questions about how the Fair Housing Act affects you, we can help. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Landlord and Tenant Law and Real Estate attorneys in Idaho. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at lve@racinelaw.net. We will answer your Idaho Landlord and Tenant Law and Real Estate questions and will help you solve your Idaho Landlord and Tenant Law and Real Estate needs.

This website includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer for advice on specific legal issues.

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