Unfortunately, discrimination in the renting and selling of housing still occurs. Since disability was added as a protected class in 1988, disability-based Fair Housing complaints have vastly outnumbered all other complaints of discrimination. In 2019, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) reported to Congress that 45% of the fair housing complaints received were based on discrimination against people with disabilities.
Questions a Housing Provider Can Ask:
A housing provider can ask you several types of questions:
About your income
If you have rented a home before and if you have ever been evicted
if you will follow the lease and community rules and if you have a criminal background
Questions a housing provider CANNOT ask:
A housing provider CANNOT ask you:
if you have a disability, the nature of your disability or the severity of your disability
to give them medical information about your disability, including the diagnosis for any of your medical history
if you take medication, see a therapist or if you are able to take care of your personal needs like bathing and dressing.
If you request a reasonable accommodation or modification, your housing provider can ask for medical documentation to confirm the need for the accommodation. The documentation must come from a healthcare professional (I.e., doctor, nurse, therapist, social worker, case manager) who knows enough about your disability-related needs to confirm that you need the
Laws Providing Housing Protections for People with Disabilities
There are several federal laws and Maryland state laws that protect the rights of people with disabilities in housing. The laws with widest application include the Fair Housing Act as Amended in 1988 and the Maryland Fair Housing Law. Information included in these and other laws protecting people with disabilities is provided below:
Federal Fair Housing Act as Amended in 1988
The Fair Housing Act protects people from discrimination when they are renting or buying a home, getting a mortgage, seeking housing assistance or engaging in other housing-related activities. Additional protections apply to federally assisted housing. There are seven protected classes under the law, including people with disabilities. The Fair Housing Act covers most housing. In very limited circumstances, the Act exempts owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, single-family houses sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent and housing operated by religious organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members. People with disabilities are entitled to additional protections under the law. Housing providers must make reasonable accommodations and allow reasonable modifications that may be necessary to allow persons with disabilities to use and enjoy their housing. Certain multifamily housing units must be accessible to persons with disabilities.
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Maryland Fair Housing Act
The Maryland Fair Housing Act is mostly equivalent to the federal Fair Housing Act, however, it adds sexual orientation, marital status and gender identity as protected classes. It also prohibits discrimination based on source of income, including a rent subsidy, child support, alimony, veterans benefits and any other legal source of income. The law applies to multifamily housing communities of four or more units.
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Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in federally-assisted programs. Recipients of federal financial assistance include any State and its political subdivisions as well as any public or private agency that receives federal funding. In addition to its responsibility for enforcing other Federal statutes prohibiting discrimination in housing, HUD has a statutory responsibility under Section 504 to ensure that individuals are not subjected to discrimination on the basis of disability by any program or activity receiving HUD assistance. Section 504 charges HUD with enforcing the right of individuals to live in federally subsidized housing free from discrimination on the basis of disability.
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Americans with Disabilities Act
In general, the ADA applies to public places. However, with regard to housing, Title II of the ADA applies to housing funded by state or local government. Title III requires accessibility in leasing offices and other areas used by the public.
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Definition – A reasonable accommodation is defined as a change in rules, policies, practices or services to give a person with a disability equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling unit or common space. Reasonable accommodations may be necessary at all stages of the housing process, including application, tenancy or to prevent eviction.
Definition – A Reasonable modification is a physical alteration to the existing premises to afford a person with a disability full use and enjoyment of the premises.
Where to Get Help
The following organizations can help you if you think you have been discriminated against due to your disability:
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
HUD Philadelphia Regional Office of FHEO
The Wanamaker Building
100 Penn Square East
Philadelphia, PA 19107