The Fair Housing Act and Disability Discrimination

Home is meant to be a place of safety, comfort, and belonging. Sadly, for individuals with disabilities, the search for suitable housing can be fraught with obstacles and discrimination. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) was established to dismantle these barriers, ensuring equal housing opportunities for all. 

Defining Disability Under the Fair Housing Act

The FHA adopts a comprehensive definition of disability to maximize protection. A disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. This includes obvious disabilities like mobility impairments and less visible ones such as mental illnesses, chronic health conditions, and past substance abuse disorders. The law also protects those perceived as having a disability, even if they don’t.

The FHA stands as a pillar of civil rights legislation, designed to combat discrimination in the housing sector and promote equality. It specifically addresses the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities, ensuring they have equal access to housing opportunities. The FHA prohibits several forms of discrimination that individuals with disabilities might encounter:

Refusal to Rent or Sell

One of the most blatant forms of discrimination prohibited by the FHA is the refusal to rent or sell housing based on a person’s disability. Housing providers, whether they are landlords, real estate companies, condominium associations or private sellers, are legally barred from denying someone housing solely because of their disability. This provision ensures that individuals with disabilities have the same access to housing as anyone else, preventing them from being unfairly excluded from the housing market.

Discriminatory Terms and Conditions

The FHA also makes it illegal for landlords and housing providers to impose different terms, conditions, or standards because of a person’s disability. This means that a landlord cannot charge higher fees, impose additional restrictions, or apply different rules to tenants with disabilities compared to those without. For example, a landlord cannot require a higher security deposit from a tenant with a disability or restrict their use of facilities that are available to all tenants. This ensures that individuals with disabilities are treated fairly and equally in all aspects of their housing arrangements.

Failure to Make Reasonable Accommodations

A key aspect of the FHA is its requirement for housing providers to make reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities. This means that landlords must allow modifications to apartments or common areas at the request of a tenant with a disability, if these modifications are reasonable and do not impose an undue burden on the landlord. Examples of reasonable accommodations include installing ramps for wheelchair access, modifying bathrooms for safety and accessibility, or allowing service animals in a no-pet building. These accommodations are crucial for allowing individuals with disabilities to live independently and enjoy full use of their dwelling.

Inquiries about Disability

The FHA places strict limits on the questions that landlords and real estate professionals can ask about an individual’s disability. Except in very specific circumstances, such as verifying eligibility for housing designed specifically for people with certain disabilities, it is illegal to inquire about the nature or severity of someone’s disability. This provision protects the privacy and dignity of individuals with disabilities, ensuring that they are not subjected to invasive questions or assumptions based on their disability.

Combating Disability-Based Housing Discrimination

It’s essential not to remain silent if you believe you’ve been discriminated against because of a disability. Here’s what you can do:

  • Gather evidence. Document any discriminatory actions, including conversations, emails, and advertisements. Note dates, times, and names of those involved.
  • File a complaint. You have the right to file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or your State’s or County’s equivalent fair housing agency.
  • Consult a landlord tenant lawyer in Florida.  An experienced fair housing attorney can explain your legal options, help with the complaint process, and represent you in any legal proceedings.

The Ferrer Law Group: Your Advocate for Fair Housing in Florida

The Fair Housing Act is a vital instrument for securing justice and equal opportunity in the housing market. It’s crucial to remember that you are not alone. If you encounter disability-based discrimination, know that the law and contract attorneys in Florida are ready to fight for your rights.

At the Ferrer Law Group, we firmly believe everyone deserves a safe and welcoming home. Our attorneys are well-versed in Florida’s fair housing laws and are passionate about helping individuals with disabilities fight against discrimination. If you’ve experienced difficulties securing housing due to your disability or suspect you’re a victim of unfair treatment, we’re here to help.

Contact us today for a consultation. Let us work together to uphold your right to fair housing.

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