December 17, 2017

People with Disabilities


People with disabilities were granted protection from discrimination in ALL housing in 1988 when the Fair Housing Act was amended. (Until then they were protected in federally subsidized housing only.) A person with a disability is:

  • Someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, or
  • someone who has a history of having a disability, or
  • someone who is thought to have a disability.
  • People who ‘associate’ with persons with disabilities are also protected from discrimination.

A housing provider (landlord, property manager, Real Estate Agent, etc.) must grant a person with a disability a ‘reasonable accommodation’ to allow the person with a disability equal access to housing. A Reasonable Accommodation is a change in rules, policies, practices or procedures that are necessary for equal access. The change must be practical. This means that they must not impose an undue burden (cost a lost of money) or result in a fundamental alteration of what is provided to everyone.

A housing provider must also allow the modification of housing units that are ‘reasonable’. That is they are actually doable and will not create a hazard for other tenants. Housing providers can require that all modifications meet local building standards and are conducted by skilled workers. They can also require that the modifications be undone when the tenant who needed leaves, IF those changes are needed to allow the next tenant to use the unit. Such as putting counters up to regular heights. Who pays for reasonable modifications depends upon whether or not there are federal subsidies in the building in question. If not, the tenant generally pays.

If you want more information please call us. We have several publications that may be helpful to you. Check out the Bazelon Center’s website at: You may also find this helpful: Request for Reasonable Accommodation/Modification (PDF: 0.07MB) .