The Fair Housing Act as amended in 1988 defines disability as:

  • Individuals with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits 1 or more major life activities,
  • Individuals who are regarded having such an impairment,
  • Individuals with a record of such an impairment.

Physical or mental impairments include but are not limited to:

  • Low Vision/Blind
  • Deafness/Hearing loss
  • Autism
  • Epilepsy
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Bipolar
  • Depression
  • Recovery from substance abuse

Major life activities include but are not limited to:   

  • Seeing
  • Hearing
  • Walking
  • Breathing
  • Performing manual tasks
  • Regulating emotions

Fair housing protections for disability includes reasonable accommodations and modifications as well as design and construction.

Reasonable Accommodations & Modifications

Reasonable accommodations are a change, exception or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice or service that is necessary for a person with a disability to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.

Reasonable accommodations require that a person has a disability and that there is a nexus between a person’s disability-related symptom(s) and the reasonable accommodation.

Commonly requested reasonable accommodations include:

  • Limited mobility requiring an assigned parking space
  • Difficulty seeing requiring a service animal
  • Difficulty regulating emotions requiring an emotional support animal
  • Difficulty with decision-making requires that communications are in writing and/or copied to a representative
  • Difficulty with changes to the day-to-day schedule requires 48-hour written notice before other parties enter the unit
  • Receipt of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) requires a later rent due date

Reasonable modifications are a structural change made to existing premises, occupied or to be occupied by a person with a disability to provide full enjoyment of the dwelling.

Reasonable modifications require that a person has a disability and that there is a nexus between a person’s disability-related symptom(s) and the reasonable modification.

Commonly requested reasonable modifications include:

  • Wheelchair user requiring that an entrance with steps is ramped
  • Limited mobility requiring a tub cut
  • Limited use of hands requiring lever door handles
  • Limited upper body strength requiring automatic doors

In private housing that does not receive federal funds, the housing provider must permit the modification to be installed at the household’s expense.

Design & Construction

Multifamily housing of 4 or more units with first occupancy after March 13, 1991 are required to meet 7 physical accessibility requirements:

  • Accessible building entrance on an accessible route
  • Accessible and usable public and common areas
  • Usable doors
  • Accessible route into and through the covered dwelling unit
  • Light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls in accessible locations
  • Reinforced walls for grab bars
  • Usable kitchens and bathrooms

For jurisdictional properties without an elevator, the design and construction standard apply to the ground floor units.

For more detailed information see: