What laws protect the rights of people with disabilities from discrimination in housing?
Federal laws protect the rights of people with disabilities to be treated fairly in the rental and purchase of housing. They require reasonable accommodations and modifications for people with disabilities, and they require accessible features in newer housing. These laws include:
- The Fair Housing Act
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, when the housing provider receives federal funding
In Illinois, state laws protect the housing rights of people with disabilities. Some Illinois cities and towns also have their own laws regarding housing discrimination. This FAQ focuses on the Fair Housing Act.
Who is considered a housing provider under the federal Fair Housing Act?
Courts have applied the act to:
- Property owners
- Property managers
- Condominium associations
- Real estate agents
- State and local governments
- Other people and entities involved in the rental or sale of housing
Are there accessibility requirements for new construction?
Yes. Multi-family housing built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, that has four or more units and an elevator must comply with the seven design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act. If the building has four or more units and does not have an elevator, the ground-floor units must comply with the design and construction requirements.
The seven requirements are:
- 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.
If you live in federally assisted housing consisting of five or more units, 5 percent of these units must meet more stringent physical accessibility requirements, and 2 percent of units must be accessible to people with visual or hearing disabilities.
Must housing providers make and pay for “reasonable accommodations” for people with disabilities?
Yes. A reasonable accommodation is a change in rules, policies, practices or services to allow people with disabilities equal opportunity to enjoy their homes and the building’s common areas.
Examples of reasonable accommodations include:
- Providing a resident who has a mobility impairment with a reserved parking space close to the entrance, even though parking for nondisabled residents is first-come, first-served
- Allowing a resident to have a service dog, even though no pets are allowed in the building
- Calling a resident who is blind to provide information that other residents receive by written notice
What kinds of information can the housing provider request when a person with a disability seeks a reasonable accommodation?
If the person’s disability is obvious and the need for the accommodation is apparent, then the provider may not request any additional information. For example, if a person who is blind seeks help filling out a rental application, the provider may not request documentation of the existence of the disability or of the need for an accommodation. However, if either the disability or the need for the accommodation is not apparent, the housing provider can ask for documentation. For example, if a person using a wheelchair asks for permission to have a support animal in a “no pets” building, the housing provider may ask for information about why the person needs a dog.
Last updated: May 4, 2021