Fair Housing is Your Right under Both Federal and State Law
Federal legislation makes discrimination with regards to sale, rental or financing of property unlawful. Property owners, housing providers, realtors, and banks cannot refuse to rent, sell or lend to you on the basis of disability, sex, race, color, national origin, religion, or familial status (presence of persons under 18 in the household). New York State Law also expands those protections to include creed, age, sexual orientation, marital status, or military status. Click here to learn more about your rights under federal Fair Housing law. Click here to learn more about your rights under New York State Fair Housing law. Click here to view HUD's page on disability rights in housing.
The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) within HUD has been developed to eliminate housing discrimination, promote economic opportunity, and achieve diverse, inclusive communities by leading the nation in enforcement, administration, development and public understanding of federal fair housing policies and laws. The FHEO can provide information and guidence regarding protecting your rights under Fair Housing.
The Civil Rights Bureau of the New York State Attorney General's Office is responsible for enforcing fair housing laws in New York. The HUD Fair Housing Initiatives Programs (FHIP) assists people who are victims of housing discrimination. New York State has several organizations funded to assist people in enforcing fair housing laws. Click here to find out more.
In addition, LawNY (Legal Assistance of Western NY) is a nonprofit law firm providing free legal aid to people with civil legal problems in western NY. Click here to find out more about their support for Fair Housing.
The National Fair Housing Alliance provides resources and information to people to further fair housing and support fair housing for all people. Click here to see a public service announcement regarding fair housing for people with disabilities.
If you beleive your rights to fair housing have been violated, you can file an online complaint by clicking here.
Fair Housing Legislation
There are several laws that ensure your right to Fair Housing is protected. The following links can provide additional information about some of those laws, and can be helpful in understanding fair housing and your rights under Fair Housing legislation.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – This landmark legislation provided significant protections to the civil rights of Americans. It laid the groundwork for future laws and amendments that went further to ensure equal rights for all Americans. It bans discrimination in a variety of locations, on the basis of race, color, or national origin and ensures that people have full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation. It was future amendments and other legislation that added disability, sex, religion, or familial status (presence of persons under 18 in the household)
Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (Fair Housing Act) – This legislation expands upon the 1964 legislation with regards to fair houing. It further prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of dwellings based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.
Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 (ABA) – This legislation requires that all facilities designed, built, altered or leased with funds supplied by the federal government are accessible to public. This legislation marked the first effort to ensure that federally funded buildings and facilities are designed and constructed to be accessible.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 – This legislation prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. This includes all programs administrated by HUD.
Section 109 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 – This legislation prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age, religion, or sex by recipients of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds.
Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 – in 1988, the Fair Housing Act was expanded beyond the original scope of the legislation. These amendments were instrumental in further advancing independent living for people with disabilities. These amendments made some significant changes to the original Fair Housing Act of 1968. Most notably (1) The expansion of coverage to include persons with disabilities and families with children; (2)The establishment an administrative enforcement mechanism for fair housing; and (3) Change in the requirements for design and construction of covered multi-family dwellings first occupied after March 13, 1991 to meet certain adaptability and accessibility requirements including accessible and usable common spaces, usable doors, an accessible route into and through the unit, environmental controls in accessible locations, reinforced walls for grab bars, usable kitchens and bathrooms, and an accessible entrance on an accessible route.
Emotional Support and Service Animals
Many individuals with disabilities have emotional support animals or service animals that assist them in many ways. Some examples of service animals and emotional support animals can include the following;
Most rental properties have a pet policy. Service animals and emotional support animals are not considered pets. As a reasonable accommodation, the landlord must waive the "no pet" policy and/or pet deposit for individuals who have a service or emotional support animal, and they cannot charge additional rent. If you have a disability related pet, you should ask your health care provider for a letter stating the nature of your disability, and how the animal will help relieve the symptoms of the disability. If the landlord refuses to allow your service or emotional support animal, you can contact the Fair Housing Enforcement Project at 1-888-671-3247 and ask for legal assistance. Below is a brochure for more information regarding service and emotional support animals.
Reasonable Accommodations and Reasonable Modifications
Under Fair Housing Legislation, housing providers of are required to make reasonable accommodations and/or to allow reasonable modifications when such accommodations or modifications may be necessary to afford the person with a disability equal opportunity for use and full enjoyment of the dwelling.
A reasonable accommodation is a change, exception or adjustment to rules, policies, practices or services. An example would be for a housing provider who has a policy providing unassigned parking spaces to residents to allow the tenant with a physical disability to have a dedicated parking space close to the entrance of their apartment. Another example is that housing providers who have a "no pets" policy must allow the tenant with a disability to keep an assistance animal as a reasonable accommodation to that policy. Reasonable accommodation requirements do not apply to a private owner occupied buildings that have four or fewer dwelling units. Generally under the Fair Housing Act, the housing provider is responsible for the costs associated with the accommodation unless it is an undue financial or administrative burden.
A reasonable modification is a structural change made to the dwelling, usually at the expense of the tenant. It is important to note that the housing provider can require the tenant to return the apartment to the original state at the end of their tenancy. Examples of reasonable modifications include but are not limited to; adding a roll in shower, removing carpet and installing new flooring to allow for more ease of movement of a wheelchair, or changing the cabinet configuration in the kitchen to allow a wheelchair to roll under the sink or countertop. The housing provider may request reliable disability related information that verifies the person meets the act's definition of disability, describes the need modification, and shows a relationship between the disability and the requested modification. For dwellings built and/or first occupied after March 13, 1991, there are minimum accessibility and adaptability standards. If the changes needed are ones that should have been included in the unit or public area at the time of construction, the housing provider may be responsible for providing and paying for those structural changes.