Your Rights

Your Rights

Table of Contents

Federally Protected Classes

Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, along with the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, is called the federal “Fair Housing Act.” The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in most housing facilities and transactions across the United States because of a person’s:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Familial status
  • Disability
Locally Protected Classes

In San Antonio, Texas, the local ordinance includes additional protections against housing discrimination based on a person’s age and veteran status as additional protected classes.

In New Braunfels, Texas, the local ordinance includes additional protections against housing discrimination based on a person’s age, creed, and marital status as additional protected classes.

In Mission, Texas, the local ordinance includes additional protections against housing discrimination based on a person’s age, creed, and marital status as additional protected classes.

In Weslaco, Texas, the local ordinance includes additional protections against housing discrimination based on a person’s creed as an additional protected class.

Types of Housing Transactions Covered

The Fair Housing Act applies to most housing transactions which include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Rental housing
  • Real estate sales
  • Mortgage lending
  • Homeowners insurance
  • Home appraisals
  • Zoning and land use
  • Advertising of housing
  • New construction of multi-family housing
  • Housing assistance programs

Types of Facilities Covered

The Fair Housing Act applies to most types of housing, whether privately or publicly funded. Some examples of these types of facilities include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Apartment complexes
  • Condominiums
  • Cooperatives
  • Assisted Living Facilities
  • Public housing
  • College Dormitories
  • Apartment housing in private universities
  • Homeless Shelters
  • Transitional Housing
  • Group Homes
  • Residential motels/hotels
  • Any dwelling unit that is designed or used as a residence

Examples of Discrimination

Examples of Discrimination Based on Race:

The Fair Housing Act provides that in the rental and sale of most housing, it is unlawful for a housing provider to take any discriminatory actions against a person because of their actual race or perceived race, because a person is multi-racial, because a person is in a relationship with someone of a different race, because a person associates with people of a particular race, or because a person has guests of a particular race. This includes discrimination because a person is White, Black/African-American, Asian, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiina or Pacific Islander, or some mixture of two or more of these groups. Examples of race discrimination can include:

  • A landlord refusing to rent to a Black applicant with a Section 8 voucher while agreeing to rent to a White applicant with a Section 8 voucher.
  • An apartment leasing agent informing a consumer that an apartment is not available for rent or inspection because of the consumer’s race–when the apartment is in fact available.
  • An apartment manager evicting a renter because of the race of their guests.
  • An apartment manager refusing to conduct an individualized assessment of a Black applicant’s criminal background and, instead, enforcing a tenant selection criteria which imposes a blanket ban and denies housing to anyone with a prior arrest or any kind of criminal conviction regardless that (1) their policy has a disproportionate adverse impact against African-Americans, (2) an arrest does not establish that criminal conduct occurred, (3) a blanket ban on any person with any conviction record is not a reliable basis upon which to assess the potential risk to resident safety or property posed by a particular individual (thus, it is not necessary to serve a substantial, legitimate, non-discriminatory interest), (4) their policy fails to take into consideration relevant mitigating information such as the nature and severity of an individual’s criminal conviction/conduct, the facts or circumstances surrounding the criminal conduct, the age of the individual at the time of the conduct, the amount of time that has passed since the criminal conduct occurred, evidence that the individual has maintained a good tenant history before and/or after the conviction or conduct, and evidence of rehabilitation efforts, and (5) a different policy could achieve the same objective with a less discriminatory impact–thus resulting in a violation of the Fair Housing Act’s disparate impact theory of housing discrimination.
  • For profit, a real estate agent persuading property owners to sell or rent their homes at low prices out of fear that racial minorities would soon be moving into the neighborhood.
  • A real estate agent discouraging a homeseeker from inspecting or buying a home because of the racial composition of the neighborhood, development, or area of town.
  • A lender discouraging a consumer from applying for a loan to buy, build, repair, improve, maintain, or refinance a dwelling because of their race.
  • An appraiser appraising a home at an amount lower than its actual worth because of the homeowner’s race.
  • A municipality rejecting a proposed affordable housing development in response to neighbors’ fears that such housing will be occupied by racial minorities.
  • A municipality enforcing their local ordinances more strictly against housing because of the predominant racial demographics of the neighborhood or because of the race of the persons occupying the housing.
Examples of Discrimination Based on Color:

The Fair Housing Act provides that in the rental and sale of most housing, it is unlawful for a housing provider to take any discriminatory actions against a person because of their color. Color refers to a person’s skin tone or shade (meaning the lightness or darkness of a person’s skin). There are many variations in skin tones within communities of color. Therefore, this type of discrimination can happen not only between persons of different races, but also, can happen between persons of the same racial or ethnic group. Examples of color discrimination can include:

  • An apartment manager assigning an applicant to a particular section of the apartment complex or to a particular building due to the color of their skin.
  • An apartment leasing agent discouraging or obstructing an applicant’s housing choices by exaggerating drawbacks or failing to inform the applicant of desirable features because of the color of their skin.
  • An apartment manager restricting a tenant’s visitor privileges and/or ability to have overnight guests because of the color of their skin.
  • An apartment manager refusing to investigate and attempt to resolve a tenant’s complaints against their neighbor–when the basis of the tenant’s complaint is about the neighbor’s conduct meant to threaten, coerce, intimidate, harass, or interfere with the tenant’s right to peaceful enjoyment of their home because of the color of their skin.
  • An apartment leasing agent informing an applicant of different tenant selection criteria, qualification criteria, or approval procedures (such as those relating to the analysis of an applicant’s credit, rental history, criminal background, etc.) due to the color of their skin.
  • A real estate agent telling a homeseeker that they would probably not be comfortable or compatible with the existing residents of a neighborhood, development, or area of town because of the color of their skin.
  • A lender steering a consumer toward a bad mortgage loan product or a loan with less favorable terms because of the color of their skin.
  • A lender providing inferior servicing of a mortgage loan because of the color of the borrower’s skin.
  • A lender avoiding providing a loan for housing to creditworthy individuals living in or seeking to live in communities of color because of the color of the residents in those communities.
  • An appraiser furnishing an appraisal of real property which takes into consideration factors such as the color of a person’s skin.
Examples of Housing Discrimination Based on National Origin:

The Fair Housing Act provides that in the rental and sale of most housing, it is unlawful for a housing provider to take any discriminatory actions against a person because of their national origin. National origin means the country, region, or geographic area in which a person was born (birthplace) or from which his or her ancestors came (ancestry). This includes discrimination because a person has the physical, cultural, or linguistic characteristics of persons from a foreign geographic area. Furthermore, this may include discrimination because a person has limited English proficiency (LEP)—limited ability to read, write, speak, or understand English. Examples of national origin discrimination can include:

  • An apartment manager immediately turning away applicants who are not fluent in English.
  • An apartment manager rejecting a Hispanic applicant based on his criminal record but approving a White applicant with a comparable criminal record.
  • An apartment manager refusing to rent to a person with a limited ability to read, write, speak, or understand English.
  • An apartment manager banning renters from speaking non-English languages on the property.
  • A landlord posting ads with statements such as "all tenants must speak English” or containing restrictions against persons who speak a specific language.
  • A landlord making statements disparaging tenants for speaking non-English languages.
  • A real estate agent immediately turning away a homebuyer and refusing to provide assistance because of their national origin, ancestry, birthplace, or limited ability to read, write, speak, or understand English.
  • A real estate agent pushing or influencing a homeseeker toward or away from a particular property, neighborhood, or development because of their national origin, ancestry, birthplace, or limited ability to read, write, speak, or understand English.
  • A lender refusing to provide a consumer with information regarding loans because of their national origin, ancestry, birthplace, or limited ability to read, write, speak, or understand English.
  • A lender requiring an applicant to obtain a co-signor because of their national origin–even if the applicant meets the lender’s mortgage loan application requirements.
Examples of Housing Discrimination Based on Religion:

The Fair Housing Act provides that in the rental and sale of most housing, it is unlawful for a housing provider to take any discriminatory actions against a person because of a person’s religion or because they wear religious clothing or engage in religious practices or rituals. “Religion” includes the practice and non-practice of religion, such as atheism (disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods), as well as, religions which are not mainstream. Examples of religious discrimination can include:

  • A neighbor painting antisemitic graffiti, slurs, or threats of harm on a Jewish neighbor’s home or property because they want to threaten, coerce, intimidate, harass, or interfere with that neighbor’s right to peaceful enjoyment of their home because of their religion.
  • A landlord posting ads with statements such as "Christian tenants preferred” or containing restrictions against renting to persons of a specific religion.
  • A landlord making derogatory statements about a tenant’s religion or harassing tenants because of their religious practices or clothing.
  • An apartment manager refusing to rent to women who hear hijabs.
  • An apartment manager allowing tenants to put up Christmas lights but not allowing other tenants to put up decorations for their non-Christian holidays.
  • An apartment maintenance worker delaying or failing to provide maintenance, repairs, or pest control services for a tenant because of their religion.
  • An apartment manager prohibiting tenants from using the community room for religious purposes while allowing other tenants to use the room for secular gatherings.
  • An apartment manager failing to fulfill their duty to take prompt action to correct and end the harassment of one tenant by another tenant–when that harassment is based on religion.
  • A real estate agent telling a homeseeker that they would not like a property because there is no synagogue, mosque, or church nearby.
  • A lender imposing different terms or conditions on a mortgage loan (such as higher interest rates, points, fees, down payments, etc.) because of an applicant’s religion.
Examples of Housing Discrimination Based on Sex:

The Fair Housing Act provides that in the rental and sale of most housing, it is unlawful for a housing provider to take any discriminatory actions against a person because of their sex. Originally, this prohibited discrimination based only on a person’s gender assigned at birth (male or female) and included protections against sexual harassment. Later interpretations of the word “sex” included protections from discrimination based on a person’s nonconformity with gender stereotypes (i.e., failing to act in the way expected of a man or woman). Then, on February 11, 2021, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) stated the federal Fair Housing Act’s prohibitions based on sex discrimination included discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity. Examples of sex discrimination can include:

  • An apartment leasing agent imposing a higher rent or additional security deposit for an apartment because of a person’s sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
  • An apartment employee engaging in sexual behavior against a tenant of such severity or frequency that it results in a living environment that is intimidating, hostile, offensive, and/or significantly less desirable (such as, an employee touching a tenant inappropriately, making comments of a sexual nature to a tenant, making sexual gestures in front of the tenant, etc.). 
  • An apartment employee making access to housing, services, or privileges conditional upon a tenant’s submission to sexual conduct (such as, an employee promising a tenant certain privileges, favors, repairs to unit, rent discounts, withdrawal of eviction actions, etc. if the tenant went along with their romantic or sexual advances, etc.).
  • An apartment employee threatening to take retaliatory actions against a tenant if they notify the property owner, management, or others about their allegations of sexual harassment (for example, an employee wrongfully refusing to renew the tenant’s lease, threatening to evict them, issuing them false lease violations, refusing to accept their rent payment, etc. if the tenant reported the harassment to the property owner or management).
  • An apartment owner or manager failing to take action to stop sexual harassment when they know or should have known that an employee, agent, or contractor is sexually harassing applicants, tenants, or residents. 
  • An apartment maintenance worker refusing or delaying repairs to a tenant’s apartment because of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
  • A landlord informing a female applicant that he is refusing to rent to her based on gender stereotypes attributed to battered women, such as the stereotype that victims cause their own abuse, victims could end the abuse if they so desired, or victims always go back to the men that abuse them.
  • An apartment manager evicting a survivor of domestic violence under the complex’s “Zero Tolerance” policy whereby all residents of an apartment are evicted if there is any threat or act of violence caused by a tenant or their guest, regardless that (1) their policy had a disproportionate adverse impact based on sex because a disproportionate number of survivors of domestic violence are women, (2) their policy fails to take into account whether a tenant was a victim of violence or the perpetrator, and (3) a different policy could achieve the same objective with a less discriminatory impact–thus resulting in a violation of the Fair Housing Act’s disparate impact theory of housing discrimination.
  • A representative of a Public Housing Authority (PHA) refusing to transfer a survivor of domestic violence to another public housing unit or another public housing site and instead taking action to terminate their tenancy in their public housing unit based on an incident of domestic violence–when the unit transfer could reduce or eliminate any actual or imminent threat that the PHA feels that their continued tenancy would pose to other tenants or employees at the site.
  • A lender denying a mortgage loan to a female applicant because she is pregnant, refusing to consider her income because she is on maternity leave, delaying the loan because she is on maternity leave, or requiring her to end her maternity leave and return to work in order to approve the loan. 
  • A lender providing a consumer with information about mortgage loans that is inaccurate or different from the information provided to others because of the consumer’s sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
Examples of Housing Discrimination Based on Familial Status:

The Fair Housing Act provides that in the rental and sale of most housing, it is unlawful for a housing provider to take any discriminatory actions against a person because of their familial status. Familial status means a person(s) having one or more children under the age of 18 in the household. This also includes a person(s) who is pregnant, a person(s) who is in the process of adopting or securing legal custody of a child under the age of 18, and a foster parent(s) with one or more children under the age of 18 in the household. Examples of familial status discrimination can include:

  • A person making, printing, or publishing any notice, statement, or advertisement regarding the rental or sale of a dwelling unit that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination against families with children. For example, the notice, statement, or advertisement should not contain words or phrases such as “adults only,” “singles only,” “prefer couples,” “prefer no children,” “perfect for singles or couples,” “no kids,” “limit 2 kids max,” “prefer family with teenagers,” “prefer mature adults,” etc.
  • An apartment manager limiting families with children to certain sections of the property or certain floors of a building (such as, only allowing families with children to rent first floor units) because the owner or manager has concerns about nearby traffic, has concerns about children causing noise on upper floors, has concerns about lead-based paint hazards on the property, or has concerns about children falling from stairs, windows, or balconies on higher floors.
  • An apartment leasing agent preventing a single parent from choosing to share a bedroom with a child—regardless of the child’s age or gender.
  • An apartment manager issuing a lease violation or an eviction notice against a family because their child made reasonable noise during reasonable hours of the day—since children have the right to make reasonable noise while playing.
  • An apartment manager informing a family that their lease will not be renewed or requiring the family to immediately transfer to a larger apartment once a member of their household becomes pregnant or once the baby is born.
  • An apartment manager enforcing an overly strict occupancy policy and refusing to consider the age of children when determining the number of persons in a household as part of the evaluation of a family’s rental application.
  • An apartment manager charging a higher security deposit amount or an additional security deposit based on the number of persons in the household or because the household includes children under the age of 18 years old. 
  • An apartment manager or Homeowners’ Association (HOA) requiring a parent to supervise their children at all times when their children are using certain amenities like the playground, computer room, fitness center, laundry center, basketball court, etc.
  • An apartment manager or Homeowners’ Association (HOA) requiring a parent to supervise their children at all times when outside on the property or in the subdivision.
  • An apartment manager or Homeowners’ Association (HOA) imposing designated play hours for children.
  • A Public Housing Authority (PHA) having an overly strict occupancy policy and failing to allow a single parent to choose to share a bedroom with their child—regardless of the child’s gender or age.
Examples of Housing Discrimination Based on Disability:

The Fair Housing Act provides that in the rental and sale of most housing, it is unlawful for a housing provider to take any discriminatory actions against a person because of their disability. Disability is defined as (1) having a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, (2) having a record of such an impairment, or (3) being regarded or perceived as having such an impairment. Examples of disability discrimination can include:

  • An apartment leasing agent requiring a higher rent, additional security deposit, or renter’s insurance because an applicant has a mobility impairment and uses a wheelchair.
  • An apartment manager failing to fulfill their duty to take prompt action to correct and end the harassment of one tenant by another tenant–when that harassment is based on disability.
  • An apartment manager limiting persons with disabilities to certain sections of the property or certain floors of a building (such as, only allowing persons who require the use of a wheelchair to rent first floor units).
  • An apartment manager imposing a tenant selection criteria which requires all rental applicants to have full-time jobs and refuses to consider all sources of income to assess an applicant’s ability to pay the rent, regardless that (i) their policy would have a disproportionately adverse impact against people with disabilities who may not be able to work full-time even though they can afford the rent and (ii) there is no legitimate, non-discriminatory business need for the policy requiring all applicants to have full-time jobs–thus resulting in a violation of the Fair Housing Act’s disparate impact theory of housing discrimination.
  • A real estate agent refusing to allow a homebuyer to inspect a home for sale or trying to dissuade them from buying the home by exaggerating drawbacks or failing to inform them of desirable features of the home due to the homebuyer’s disability.
  • A lender treating individuals with disabilities who receive disability income less favorably than individuals without disabilities (such as, applying more invasive and burdensome income documentation requirements).
  • A lender refusing to consider an applicant’s disability-related income, such as SSI or SSDI.
  • A lender requiring an applicant to obtain a co-signor because of their disability–even if the applicant meets the lender’s mortgage loan application requirements.
  • A municipality requiring notification or a public hearing only for the development of affordable housing, supportive housing, or group homes for people with disabilities, but not for other types of residential developments.
  • A municipality imposing spacing requirements on group homes for persons with disabilities.
  • A municipality refusing to allow an exception to the setback requirement as a reasonable accommodation for a disabled resident who must build a wheelchair ramp in order to access their home.
  • A homebuilder denying a homebuyer’s request to change the building plans for a pre-construction single family home, with all costs associated with the modifications to be at the homebuyer’s request, in order to incorporate accessibility features to the interior or exterior of the home which are needed due to the homebuyer’s disability or a household member’s disability—even if the builder does not normally allow customization of building plans.

Four Additional Prohibitions Based on Disability

In addition, with respect to persons with disabilities, the Fair Housing Act provides that in the rental or sale of most housing, it is unlawful, based on a person’s disability, for a housing provider to:

  1. Fail to design and construct covered multi-family housing built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, so that it is in compliance with Fair Housing Act’s accessibility requirements.
  2. Ask a tenant or applicant if they have a disability or inquire about the nature or severity of their disability.
  3. Refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford a disabled person an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling unit.
  4. Refuse to permit a disabled person, at the person’s expense, to make reasonable modifications to existing premises if the proposed modifications may be necessary to afford the disabled person full enjoyment of the premises of a dwelling or the premises, including the common-use and public-use areas.

Design and Construction Requirements

Additional Prohibitions Based on Disability # 1–Noncompliance with FHA’s Technical Accessibility Requirements

Regarding the design and construction of covered multi-family housing built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, discrimination includes a failure to design and construct the covered dwelling units so that they comply with the Fair Housing Act’s seven accessibility requirements as follows:

  1. All covered multi-family dwellings must have at least one building entrance on an accessible route;
  2. The public and common-use portions of such dwellings are readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities;
  3. All the doors designed to allow passage into and within all premises within such dwellings are sufficiently wide to allow passage by an individual with a disability who uses a wheelchair;
  4. An accessible route into and through the dwelling unit;
  5. Light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats, and environmental controls in accessible locations;
  6. Reinforcements in bathroom walls to allow for later installation of grab bars;
  7. Usable kitchens and bathrooms such that an individual in a wheelchair can maneuver about the space.

If you want the Fair Housing Council to conduct a free review of your apartment or condominium to determine whether it meets the Fair Housing Act’s accessibility requirements or if you have any questions, please contact the Fair Housing Council at (210) 733-3247, ext. 106.

Additional Prohibitions Based on Disability # 2–Unlawful Inquiries About Nature/Severity of Disability

In general, under the Fair Housing Act, a housing provider cannot make an inquiry to determine whether an applicant has a disability or an inquiry as to the nature or severity of an applicant’s disability. In addition, a housing provider cannot ask whether any of the applicant’s family members, friends, or associates have a disability. This applies whether the inquiry is verbal or written, such as, via a medical questionnaire as part of the housing provider’s inquiry or application process. For example, a housing provider cannot ask the following questions:

  1. Can you live independently?
  2. Can you evacuate in an emergency in your condition?
  3. Are you able to transfer yourself from your wheelchair to the toilet or bed without assistance?
  4. Have you ever been treated by a psychiatrist?
  5. Do you take any prescription drugs?
  6. What types of medications are you taking?
  7. Have you been hospitalized recently?
  8. Who is the current President of the United States?
  9. Can you count backwards from 100?
  10. What does your home health care provider help you with?
  11. Do you have personal liability insurance to cover the use of your wheelchair?
  12. Have you ever had to call EMS or 911 for assistance due to your condition?
  13. Do you use your wheelchair all the time?
  14. What kinds of mobility aids do you use?
  15. Can you submit a copy of your medical records?

However, a housing provider can make the following inquiries, provided these inquiries are made of all applicants, whether or not they have disabilities:

  1. inquiry into an applicant’s ability to meet the requirements of ownership or tenancy;
  2. inquiry to determine whether an applicant is qualified for a dwelling available only to persons with disabilities or to persons with a particular type of disability;
  3. inquiry to determine whether an applicant for a dwelling is qualified for a priority available to persons with disabilities or to persons with a particular type of disability;
  4. inquiry about whether an applicant for a dwelling is a current illegal abuser or addict of a controlled substance;
  5. inquiry about whether an applicant has been convicted of the illegal manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance.

Reasonable Accommodations

Additional Prohibitions Based on Disability # 3–Denial of Reasonable Accommodation Requests

It is a violation of the Fair Housing Act for a housing provider (i.e., landlord, apartment manager, Public Housing Authority, Homeowners Association, realtor, lender, homebuilder, municipality, etc.) to refuse to make a reasonable accommodation in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford a disabled person an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling unit, including public and common-use areas. This means that a housing provider must allow an exception to a rule or policy if it would afford a disabled resident an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling unit. An accommodation that permits a disabled resident to experience the full benefit of residency must be made unless the accommodation imposes an undue financial or administrative burden on a housing provider or requires a fundamental alteration in the nature of its program.

With regard to a disabled resident or disabled applicant’s reasonable accommodation request, the housing provider can request verification that the resident or applicant is disabled and needs the requested accommodation due to their disability. However, if a person’s disability is obvious, or otherwise known to the housing provider, and if the need for the requested accommodation is also readily apparent or known, then the housing provider may not request any additional information about the person’s disability or the disability-related need for the accommodation. Furthermore, a housing provider’s undue delay in responding to a disabled person’s reasonable accommodation request may be construed as a failure to provide the reasonable accommodation.

Case Examples

Case Example #1

United States vs. Avatar Properties, Inc., et al.

HUD FHEO Case # 011401958

HUD Charge issued on 09/24/2014

DOJ lawsuit filed on 11/07/2014

Consent order entered on 05/03/2016

The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit alleging that a condominium association in Londonderry, New Hampshire refused to assign an accessible parking space to a resident with a spinal cord injury. The lawsuit resulted from a complaint filed with HUD by condo owners at the complex. HUD charged the Respondents with violating the Fair Housing Act when they denied a resident with disabilities’ request to be allowed to use the visitor parking space in front of his condo as a reasonable accommodation. The resident could not use his designated parking area behind his building because this parking area could only be accessed via a staircase with nine steps and he had difficulty climbing stairs due to his disability. As part of the consent order, Respondents agreed to pay the complainant $25,000, adopt a reasonable accommodation policy, obtain fair housing training, etc.

NOTES: According to the HUD/DOJ Joint Statement, courts have ruled that the Fair Housing Act may require a housing provider to grant a reasonable accommodation that involves costs and can only deny the request if they can prove that the accommodation would be an undue financial burden for them or fundamental alteration of their operations. In addition, courts have treated requests for parking spaces as requests for reasonable accommodations and have placed the responsibility for providing the parking space on the housing provider, even if provision of an accessible or assigned parking space results in some cost to the provider. Housing providers may not require persons with disabilities to pay extra fees as a condition of receiving accessible parking spaces. In addition, providing a parking accommodation could include creating signage, repainting markings, redistributing spaces, or creating curb cuts. This list is not exhaustive. Furthermore, the Fair Housing Council recommends that housing providers install the appropriate “reserved parking” signage because if the housing provider installs the typical “handicap parking” sign, then this parking space would not be for the disabled resident’s exclusive use and other residents and/or their guests could use, monopolize, and obstruct the disabled resident’s use of this parking space as long as they had the required disabled parking placard or license plate.
Case Example #2

United States vs. The Links South at Harbour Village Condominiums Association, Inc., et al.

HUD FHEO Case # 04-19-78058

HUD Charge issued on 08/19/2021

DOJ lawsuit filed on 10/08/2021

Consent order entered on 12/10/2021

According to the HUD charge of discrimination, a condominium association (for a condo complex of 188 units) discriminated on the basis of disability by denying a resident’s reasonable accommodation request to allow him and his wife to keep shoes outside of their front door to avoid bringing allergens into their unit. The resident, a retired General Superintendent from the New York City Department of Sanitation, spent more than 400 days working on 9/11 disaster cleanup and developed respiratory conditions certified for coverage under the World Trade Center Health Program. Based on the Respondent’s denial of the reasonable accommodation request, the resident filed a complaint with HUD, HUD conducted an investigation, and issued a charge of discrimination. As part of the consent order, Respondents agreed to pay the complainant $40,000, adopt and implement a reasonable accommodation policy, attend fair housing training, grant the resident’s reasonable accommodation request, and permit him to leave no more than two (2) pairs of shoes per occupant and one (1) pair of shoes per guest in a neat and tidy fashion outside their unit and any other unit they may own within The Links South condominium complex for the duration of their residency.

Case Example #3

United States vs. Tzadik Georgia Portfolio, LLC, et al.

HUD FHEO Case # 04-19-64058

HUD Charge issued on 07/03/2020

Consent order entered on 11/02/2020

According to the HUD Charge, the property owners and management of Westfield Apartments (a complex with 105 units on three floors served by one elevator) in Philadelphia, PA violated the Fair Housing Act when they refused to grant the reasonable accommodation requests by a tenant (who used a wheelchair and lived on the second floor) to transfer to a first-floor unit when elevator renovations would leave tenants without an elevator for at least six weeks. The Respondents refused to transfer the tenant even when, during the time period of these accommodation requests, they offered and rented the available first-floor units to other individuals who did not have physical disabilities. As part of the consent order, Respondents agreed to pay the complainant $45,128, attend fair housing training, adopt and implement a reasonable accommodation policy that complies with the Fair Housing Act, etc.

NOTES: If due to their disability, a disabled applicant or tenant is unable to work and receives their disability benefits on a fixed schedule, then they would need to change their rent due date and grace period to correspond with the receipt of their disability benefits. The manager should grant this accommodation request because it is reasonable and necessary to afford the disabled tenant an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling unit at the rental property in question. Furthermore, to ensure a record of the accommodation, it is recommended that the manager execute an addendum to the disabled tenant’s lease which changes the rent due date and grace period to coincide with the date of the month when they receive their disability benefits.
Case Example #4

United States vs. Westfield Partners, Galman Group LTD, et al.

HUD FHEO Case # 03-13-0278-8

HUD Charge issued on 09/30/2014

DOJ lawsuit filed on 11/20/2014 

Consent order entered on 07/28/2015

According to the HUD Charge, the property owners and management of Westfield Apartments (a complex with 105 units on three floors served by one elevator) in Philadelphia, PA violated the Fair Housing Act when they refused to grant the reasonable accommodation requests by a tenant (who used a wheelchair and lived on the second floor) to transfer to a first-floor unit when elevator renovations would leave tenants without an elevator for at least six weeks. The Respondents refused to transfer the tenant even when, during the time period of these accommodation requests, they offered and rented the available first-floor units to other individuals who did not have physical disabilities. As part of the consent order, Respondents agreed to pay the complainant $45,128, attend fair housing training, adopt and implement a reasonable accommodation policy that complies with the Fair Housing Act, etc.

NOTES: A tenant may also need a unit transfer due to other disability-related reasons. For example, a tenant with a mental disability may need a unit transfer because their disability is being negatively affected by loud disturbances in the area of their current unit and they need to transfer to a unit in a quieter part of the apartment complex. Or a tenant with a physical disability may need a unit transfer because their mobility has deteriorated and they cannot continue to climb the stairs leading to their second floor unit in a building without an elevator. The manager should grant this type of accommodation request because it is reasonable and necessary to afford the disabled tenant an equal opportunity to continue using and enjoying a dwelling unit at the rental property in question. As part of the accommodation request, the disabled tenant could also request that the housing provider (1) waive any fees associated with the unit transfer, (2) allow them to set up a payment plan to satisfy any security deposit needed for the new rental unit, and (3) if no comparable units are available for them to transfer to at the requested time, then either give them priority at the top of any waiting list for this unit transfer or release them from their lease without penalty.
Case Example #5

HUD vs. Kent State University, et al.

HUD FHEO Case # 05-10-0670-8 

HUD FHEO Case # 05-10-0669-8

HUD Charge issued on 08/01/2014 

DOJ lawsuit filed on 09/08/2014 

Consent order entered on 09/20/2016

According to the HUD Charge, Respondents violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to allow a student with disabilities to keep an emotional support animal in her campus apartment. The student and her husband lived in university-owned and operated housing that is set aside for upperclassmen and their families. A university psychologist treating the student documented her disabilities and wrote a letter stating the best way for the student to cope with her disabilities was having a support animal. Then, the student obtained a dog and submitted a reasonable accommodation request to the university seeking a waiver of the complex’s “no pets” rule. The university denied her request and, as a result, the student and her husband were forced to move to an apartment the university did not own. As part of the consent order, Defendants paid $130,000 in damages to the victims, paid a $15,000 penalty to the U.S. government, had staff undergo fair housing training, implemented a specific policy on assistance animals, etc.

NOTES: A reasonable accommodation request is not limited to an exception to a housing provider’s “no pets” policy. If an assistance animal is needed due to a person’s physical or mental disability, then they can request that the housing provider waive their “pet deposit,” monthly “pet rent,” other “pet” fees, breed restrictions, weight restrictions, size restrictions, and/or limit to number of animals in the dwelling unit. The housing provider should also waive their pet policies for a disabled applicant that has a different type of assistance animal. There are two types of assistance animals. One type of assistance animal is referred to as a “service” animal. A service animal means any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items. The other type of assistance animal is referred to as a “support” animal. A support animal means any animal that provides a therapeutic or psychological aid to a person, due to their disability. If the animal is a dog, cat, small bird, rabbit, hamster, gerbil, other rodent, fish, turtle or other small, domesticated animal that is traditional kept in the home for pleasure rather than for commercial purposes, then the reasonable accommodation should be granted if the requestor has provided information confirming that there is a disability-related need for the animal. If the individual is asking to keep a unique type of animal that is not commonly kept in households as described, then the requestor has the substantial burden of demonstrating a disability-related therapeutic need for the specific animal or the specific type of animal. For example, the unique animal may be individually trained to do work or perform tasks that cannot be performed by a dog, the person with the disability has allergies which prevent them from using a dog, or without the unique animal the symptoms or effects of the person’s disability would be significantly increased.
Case Example #6

United States vs. City Rescue Mission of New Castle, et al.

HUD FHEO Case # 03-12-0328-8

HUD Charge issued on 04/15/2013 

DOJ lawsuit filed on 06/28/2013 

Consent order entered on 08/20/2014

After a HUD Charge, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit alleging a pattern or practice of Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) violations, including that the Defendants discriminated on the basis of disability by making housing unavailable to the complainant on account of his disability and by refusing to allow the complainant to stay in the homeless shelter with his guide dog. Defendants operate a 39-bed homeless shelter in New Castle, Pennsylvania which provides temporary lodging and other services to persons who are homeless. Complainant called the shelter and explained that he was blind, required the use of a service animal, and needed shelter due to his recent eviction. In response, Defendants informed the complainant that they could not accept him with his service animal because the shelter was not equipped to handle animals–even though the complainant explained that he could not be without his trained guide dog which assisted him in his everyday activities due to his disability. Complainant filed a complaint with HUD, HUD investigated the complaint, HUD issued a charge of discrimination, and the DOJ filed a lawsuit against the Defendants. As part of the consent order, Defendants agreed to pay a $5,000 civil penalty, obtain civil rights training, and adopt a new reasonable accommodation policy, including allowing occupants with assistance animals to reside anywhere in the shelter, not just in the infirmary. In addition, Defendants entered into a separate monetary agreement with the complainant.

Case Example #7

United States vs. Las Vegas Jaycees Senior Citizens Mobile Home Community, et al.

HUD FHEO Case # 09-16-4062-8

HUD Charge issued on 08/26/2019 

DOJ lawsuit filed on 09/29/2020 

Consent order entered on 09/08/2021

According to the HUD Charge, Defendants violated the Fair Housing Act when they failed to grant a reasonable accommodation to its breed restriction policy to allow a woman with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to visit her mother at the mobile home community located in Las Vegas, Nevada, with her assistance animal (a pit bull dog named Lil). In addition, the Defendants violated the Fair Housing Act when they interfered with the complainants’ fair housing rights by banning the daughter and evicting the mother from the community. Complainants filed a complaint with HUD, HUD investigated the complaint, HUD issued a charge of discrimination, and DOJ filed a lawsuit against the Defendants. As part of the consent order, Defendants agreed to pay a combined $100,000 to the complainants, revise their reasonable accommodation policy, attend fair housing training, maintain records regarding reasonable accommodation requests, etc.

Case Example #8

HUD vs. Spring Creek Homeowners Association, et al.

HUD FHEO Case # 08-21-2236-8 

HUD Charge issued on 07/19/2022

According to the HUD Charge, Respondent Spring Creek Homeowners Association in Jackson, Wyoming violated the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against two homeowners when they employed a dog policy which indicated a preference for residents without emotional support animals, required residents to provide emotional support documentation on forms as required by American, Delta, or United Airlines, and imposed restrictions on how, when, and where residents could take their support animals within the community. In this case, Respondent approved the complainants’ reasonable accommodation request to be allowed to live at the property with their disability-related support animals (two dogs) but imposed restrictions on where dogs could be walked on the property and stated that dogs should relieve themselves in the immediate vicinity of the homeowner’s residence during the early morning or late evening. Complainants filed a complaint with HUD, HUD investigated the complaint, and issued a charge of discrimination.

Case Example #9

HUD vs. Scarlett Place Residential Condominium, Inc., Brodie Management, Inc., et al.

HUD FHEO Case # 03-20-3719-8 

HUD Charge issued on 7/20/2021 

Consent Order entered on 6/07/2022

 

According to the HUD charge, Respondents in Baltimore, MD violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to make a reasonable accommodation for complainants who asked for a waiver of Respondent’s occupancy bylaw (which limited occupancy to 2 persons per bedroom) to allow their 8-person family to temporarily rent a 3-bedroom condo to facilitate their young child’s bone marrow transplant treatment and care at nearby Johns Hopkins Hospital—which included the screening of all family members for a viable donor. In the alternative, Complainant asked for permission to construct a demising wall to transform a single large bedroom into two separate bedrooms and, thus, bring the family into compliance with the occupancy bylaw. But Respondents denied both requests in violation of the Fair Housing Act. The complainant filed a complaint with HUD, HUD conducted an investigation, and issued a charge of discrimination. As part of the consent order, Respondents agreed to develop a reasonable accommodation and reasonable modification policy, have their Board of Directors, employees, and agents attend fair housing training, and pay the family and condo owner a total of $35,743.50 in damages. Respondents also agreed to rescind all fines imposed against complainants in connection with their tenancy and send letters to the 3 major credit reporting bureaus stating that complainants did not owe any outstanding amounts to Respondents stemming from their tenancy and that any amounts were billed in error.

CASE EXAMPLE # 1:

United States vs. Avatar Properties, Inc., et al.

HUD FHEO Case # 01-14-0195-8

(HUD Charge issued on 09/24/2014; DOJ lawsuit filed on 11/07/2014; Consent order entered on 05/03/2016)

 

The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit alleging that a condominium association in Londonderry, New Hampshire refused to assign an accessible parking space to a resident with a spinal cord injury. The lawsuit resulted from a complaint filed with HUD by condo owners at the complex. HUD charged the Respondents with violating the Fair Housing Act when they denied a resident with disabilities’ request to be allowed to use the visitor parking space in front of his condo as a reasonable accommodation. The resident could not use his designated parking area behind his building because this parking area could only be accessed via a staircase with nine steps and he had difficulty climbing stairs due to his disability. As part of the consent order, Respondents agreed to pay the complainant $25,000, adopt a reasonable accommodation policy, obtain fair housing training, etc.


NOTES: According to the HUD/DOJ Joint Statement, courts have ruled that the Fair Housing Act may require a housing provider to grant a reasonable accommodation that involves costs and can only deny the request if they can prove that the accommodation would be an undue financial burden for them or fundamental alteration of their operations. In addition, courts have treated requests for parking spaces as requests for reasonable accommodations and have placed the responsibility for providing the parking space on the housing provider, even if provision of an accessible or assigned parking space results in some cost to the provider. Housing providers may not require persons with disabilities to pay extra fees as a condition of receiving accessible parking spaces. In addition, providing a parking accommodation could include creating signage, repainting markings, redistributing spaces, or creating curb cuts. This list is not exhaustive. Furthermore, the Fair Housing Council recommends that housing providers install the appropriate “reserved parking” signage because if the housing provider installs the typical “handicap parking” sign, then this parking space would not be for the disabled resident’s exclusive use and other residents and/or their guests could use, monopolize, and obstruct the disabled resident’s use of this parking space as long as they had the required disabled parking placard or license plate.

CASE EXAMPLE # 2:

United States vs. The Links South at Harbour Village Condominiums Association, Inc., et al. 

HUD FHEO Case # 04-19-7805-8

(HUD Charge issued on 08/19/2021; DOJ lawsuit filed on 10/08/2021; Consent order entered on 12/10/2021)

According to the HUD charge of discrimination, a condominium association (for a condo complex of 188 units) discriminated on the basis of disability by denying a resident’s reasonable accommodation request to allow him and his wife to keep shoes outside of their front door to avoid bringing allergens into their unit. The resident, a retired General Superintendent from the New York City Department of Sanitation, spent more than 400 days working on 9/11 disaster cleanup and developed respiratory conditions certified for coverage under the World Trade Center Health Program. Based on the Respondent’s denial of the reasonable accommodation request, the resident filed a complaint with HUD, HUD conducted an investigation, and issued a charge of discrimination. As part of the consent order, Respondents agreed to pay the complainant $40,000, adopt and implement a reasonable accommodation policy, attend fair housing training, grant the resident’s reasonable accommodation request, and permit him to leave no more than two (2) pairs of shoes per occupant and one (1) pair of shoes per guest in a neat and tidy fashion outside their unit and any other unit they may own within The Links South condominium complex for the duration of their residency.

HUD is the government agency responsible for enforcing the federal Fair Housing Act and accepts administrative complaints from consumers who feel they have been the victim of housing discrimination.

Our office can help consumers file their administrative complaints with HUD.

CASE EXAMPLE # 3:

United States vs. Tzadik Georgia Portfolio, LLC, et al.

HUD FHEO Case # 04-19-6405-8

(HUD Charge issued on 07/03/2020; Consent order entered on 11/02/2020)

According to the HUD charge of discrimination, Respondents violated the Fair Housing Act by denying complainant’s multiple legitimate and reasonable accommodation requests to be allowed to pay his rent on or after the second Wednesday of every month (without incurring late fees) because that was when the government deposited his disability benefits in his account. As part of the consent order, Respondents agreed to pay the complainant $34,900, attend fair housing training, adopt and implement a reasonable accommodation policy that complies with the Fair Housing Act, etc.

 

 

NOTES: If due to their disability, a disabled applicant or tenant is unable to work and receives their disability benefits on a fixed schedule, then they would need to change their rent due date and grace period to correspond with the receipt of their disability benefits. The manager should grant this accommodation request because it is reasonable and necessary to afford the disabled tenant an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling unit at the rental property in question. Furthermore, to ensure a record of the accommodation, it is recommended that the manager execute an addendum to the disabled tenant’s lease which changes the rent due date and grace period to coincide with the date of the month when they receive their disability benefits.

The deadline to file a complaint with HUD is one (1) year from the date of the discriminatory action.

CASE EXAMPLE # 4:

United States vs. Westfield Partners, Galman Group LTD, et al.

HUD FHEO Case # 03-13-0278-8

(HUD Charge issued on 09/30/2014; DOJ lawsuit filed on 11/20/2014; Consent order entered on 07/28/2015)

 

According to the HUD Charge, the property owners and management of Westfield Apartments (a complex with 105 units on three floors served by one elevator) in Philadelphia, PA violated the Fair Housing Act when they refused to grant the reasonable accommodation requests by a tenant (who used a wheelchair and lived on the second floor) to transfer to a first-floor unit when elevator renovations would leave tenants without an elevator for at least six weeks. The Respondents refused to transfer the tenant even when, during the time period of these accommodation requests, they offered and rented the available first-floor units to other individuals who did not have physical disabilities. As part of the consent order, Respondents agreed to pay the complainant $45,128, attend fair housing training, adopt and implement a reasonable accommodation policy that complies with the Fair Housing Act, etc.

 

 

NOTES: A tenant may also need a unit transfer due to other disability-related reasons. For example, a tenant with a mental disability may need a unit transfer because their disability is being negatively affected by loud disturbances in the area of their current unit and they need to transfer to a unit in a quieter part of the apartment complex. Or a tenant with a physical disability may need a unit transfer because their mobility has deteriorated and they cannot continue to climb the stairs leading to their second floor unit in a building without an elevator. The manager should grant this type of accommodation request because it is reasonable and necessary to afford the disabled tenant an equal opportunity to continue using and enjoying a dwelling unit at the rental property in question. As part of the accommodation request, the disabled tenant could also request that the housing provider (1) waive any fees associated with the unit transfer, (2) allow them to set up a payment plan to satisfy any security deposit needed for the new rental unit, and (3) if no comparable units are available for them to transfer to at the requested time, then either give them priority at the top of any waiting list for this unit transfer or release them from their lease without penalty.  

CASE EXAMPLE # 5:
young woman and her dog are looking at computer

HUD vs. Kent State University, et al.

HUD FHEO Case # 05-10-0670-8 and # 05-10-0669-8

(HUD Charge issued on 08/01/2014; DOJ lawsuit filed on 09/08/2014; Consent order entered on 09/20/2016)

According to the HUD Charge, Respondents violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to allow a student with disabilities to keep an emotional support animal in her campus apartment. The student and her husband lived in university-owned and operated housing that is set aside for upperclassmen and their families. A university psychologist treating the student documented her disabilities and wrote a letter stating the best way for the student to cope with her disabilities was having a support animal. Then, the student obtained a dog and submitted a reasonable accommodation request to the university seeking a waiver of the complex’s “no pets” rule. The university denied her request and, as a result, the student and her husband were forced to move to an apartment the university did not own. As part of the consent order, Defendants paid $130,000 in damages to the victims, paid a $15,000 penalty to the U.S. government, had staff undergo fair housing training, implemented a specific policy on assistance animals, etc.

 

 

NOTES: A reasonable accommodation request is not limited to an exception to a housing provider’s “no pets” policy. If an assistance animal is needed due to a person’s physical or mental disability, then they can request that the housing provider waive their “pet deposit,” monthly “pet rent,” other “pet” fees, breed restrictions, weight restrictions, size restrictions, and/or limit to number of animals in the dwelling unit. The housing provider should also waive their pet policies for a disabled applicant that has a different type of assistance animal. There are two types of assistance animals. One type of assistance animal is referred to as a “service” animal. A service animal means any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items. The other type of assistance animal is referred to as a “support” animal. A support animal means any animal that provides a therapeutic or psychological aid to a person, due to their disability. If the animal is a dog, cat, small bird, rabbit, hamster, gerbil, other rodent, fish, turtle or other small, domesticated animal that is traditional kept in the home for pleasure rather than for commercial purposes, then the reasonable accommodation should be granted if the requestor has provided information confirming that there is a disability-related need for the animal. If the individual is asking to keep a unique type of animal that is not commonly kept in households as described, then the requestor has the substantial burden of demonstrating a disability-related therapeutic need for the specific animal or the specific type of animal. For example, the unique animal may be individually trained to do work or perform tasks that cannot be performed by a dog, the person with the disability has allergies which prevent them from using a dog, or without the unique animal the symptoms or effects of the person’s disability would be significantly increased.

CASE EXAMPLE # 6:

United States vs. City Rescue Mission of New Castle, et al.

HUD FHEO Case # 03-12-0328-8

(HUD Charge issued on 04/15/2013; DOJ lawsuit filed on 06/28/2013; Consent order entered on 08/20/2014)

 

After a HUD Charge, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit alleging a pattern or practice of Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) violations, including that the Defendants discriminated on the basis of disability by making housing unavailable to the complainant on account of his disability and by refusing to allow the complainant to stay in the homeless shelter with his guide dog. Defendants operate a 39-bed homeless shelter in New Castle, Pennsylvania which provides temporary lodging and other services to persons who are homeless. Complainant called the shelter and explained that he was blind, required the use of a service animal, and needed shelter due to his recent eviction. In response, Defendants informed the complainant that they could not accept him with his service animal because the shelter was not equipped to handle animals–even though the complainant explained that he could not be without his trained guide dog which assisted him in his everyday activities due to his disability. Complainant filed a complaint with HUD, HUD investigated the complaint, HUD issued a charge of discrimination, and the DOJ filed a lawsuit against the Defendants. As part of the consent order, Defendants agreed to pay a $5,000 civil penalty, obtain civil rights training, and adopt a new reasonable accommodation policy, including allowing occupants with assistance animals to reside anywhere in the shelter, not just in the infirmary. In addition, Defendants entered into a separate monetary agreement with the complainant.

CASE EXAMPLE # 7:

United States vs. Las Vegas Jaycees Senior Citizens Mobile Home Community, et al.

HUD FHEO Case # 09-16-4062-8

(HUD Charge issued on 08/26/2019; DOJ lawsuit filed on 09/29/2020; Consent order entered on 09/08/2021)

According to the HUD Charge, Defendants violated the Fair Housing Act when they failed to grant a reasonable accommodation to its breed restriction policy to allow a woman with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to visit her mother at the mobile home community located in Las Vegas, Nevada, with her assistance animal (a pit bull dog named Lil). In addition, the Defendants violated the Fair Housing Act when they interfered with the complainants’ fair housing rights by banning the daughter and evicting the mother from the community. Complainants filed a complaint with HUD, HUD investigated the complaint, HUD issued a charge of discrimination, and DOJ filed a lawsuit against the Defendants. As part of the consent order, Defendants agreed to pay a combined $100,000 to the complainants, revise their reasonable accommodation policy, attend fair housing training, maintain records regarding reasonable accommodation requests, etc.

CASE EXAMPLE # 8:
Two Affectionate gay men in love, having a relaxing evening walk through a Portland Oregon Neighborhood. They are walking their two dogs on leashes. The men are in their 30s and early 40s both multiracial people.

HUD vs. Spring Creek Homeowners Association, et al.

HUD FHEO Case # 08-21-2236-8 

(HUD Charge issued on 07/19/2022)

 

According to the HUD Charge, Respondent Spring Creek Homeowners Association in Jackson, Wyoming violated the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against two homeowners when they employed a dog policy which indicated a preference for residents without emotional support animals, required residents to provide emotional support documentation on forms as required by American, Delta, or United Airlines, and imposed restrictions on how, when, and where residents could take their support animals within the community. In this case, Respondent approved the complainants’ reasonable accommodation request to be allowed to live at the property with their disability-related support animals (two dogs) but imposed restrictions on where dogs could be walked on the property and stated that dogs should relieve themselves in the immediate vicinity of the homeowner’s residence during the early morning or late evening. Complainants filed a complaint with HUD, HUD investigated the complaint, and issued a charge of discrimination.

CASE EXAMPLE # 9:

HUD vs. Scarlett Place Residential Condominium, Inc., Brodie Management, Inc., et al.

HUD FHEO Case # 03-20-3719-8 

(HUD Charge issued on 7/20/2021; Consent Order entered on 6/07/2022)

 

According to the HUD charge, Respondents in Baltimore, MD violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to make a reasonable accommodation for complainants who asked for a waiver of Respondent’s occupancy bylaw (which limited occupancy to 2 persons per bedroom) to allow their 8-person family to temporarily rent a 3-bedroom condo to facilitate their young child’s bone marrow transplant treatment and care at nearby Johns Hopkins Hospital—which included the screening of all family members for a viable donor. In the alternative, Complainant asked for permission to construct a demising wall to transform a single large bedroom into two separate bedrooms and, thus, bring the family into compliance with the occupancy bylaw. But Respondents denied both requests in violation of the Fair Housing Act. The complainant filed a complaint with HUD, HUD conducted an investigation, and issued a charge of discrimination. As part of the consent order, Respondents agreed to develop a reasonable accommodation and reasonable modification policy, have their Board of Directors, employees, and agents attend fair housing training, and pay the family and condo owner a total of $35,743.50 in damages. Respondents also agreed to rescind all fines imposed against complainants in connection with their tenancy and send letters to the 3 major credit reporting bureaus stating that complainants did not owe any outstanding amounts to Respondents stemming from their tenancy and that any amounts were billed in error.

Reasonable Modifications

Additional Prohibitions Based on Disability # 4–Denial of Reasonable Modification Requests
Modification Descriptions & Assurances

Under the Fair Housing Act, it is also unlawful for any housing provider (i.e., landlord, apartment manager, Homeowners Association, realtor, lender, homebuilder, municipality, etc.) to refuse to permit, at the expense of the disabled consumer, reasonable modifications of existing premises occupied or intended to be occupied by such person if such modifications may be necessary to afford such person full enjoyment of the premises of a dwelling. A “modification” is any structural change to the public or common-use areas of a building or any structural change to a dwelling unit.

A housing provider may require that a request for a reasonable modification include:

  • A reasonable description of the proposed modifications
  • Reasonable assurances that the work will be done in a workmanlike manner
  • Obtaining any building permits needed to make the modifications
Examples of Modifications that Typically Are Reasonable Include
  • Widening doorways to make rooms more accessible for persons in wheelchairs
  • Installing grab bars in bathrooms
  • Adding a ramp to make a primary entrance accessible for persons in wheelchairs
  • Altering a walkway to provide access to a public-use or common-use area
  • Lowering clothes racks in closets
  • Installing a lower peephole and/or door chain on the front door
  • Installing alternate flooring instead of carpet
  • Removing cabinets under the sink
  • Lowering kitchen cabinets to a height suitable for persons in wheelchairs
Restoration of the Dwelling’s Interior

In the case of a rental unit, the housing provider may, where it is reasonable to do so, condition permission for a modification on the tenant agreeing to restore the interior of the premises to the condition that existed before the modification, reasonable wear and tear excepted.

Unreasonable Restorations

However, it would be unreasonable for the housing provider to require the tenant to make certain restorations that would not interfere in any way with the landlord’s or the next tenant’s use and enjoyment of the premises.

EXAMPLE: An applicant for rental housing has a child with a disability who uses a wheelchair. However, the bathroom door in the rental dwelling unit is too narrow to permit the wheelchair to pass through. Therefore, the applicant asks the landlord for permission to widen the bathroom doorway at the applicant’s own expense in order to allow their child to access to the bathroom with their wheelchair. It is unlawful for the landlord to refuse to permit the applicant to make this structural modification which is needed due to their child’s disability. Furthermore, the landlord may not, in usual circumstances, condition permission for the modification on the applicant paying for the doorway to be narrowed at the end of the lease because a wider doorway will not interfere with the landlord’s or the next tenant’s use and enjoyment of the premises.

EXAMPLE: A disabled tenant asks their landlord for permission to install grab bars in the bathroom at their own expense. It is necessary to reinforce the walls with blocking between studs in order to affix the grab bars. It is unlawful for the landlord to refuse to permit the tenant, at the tenant’s own expense, from making the modifications necessary to add the grab bars. However, the landlord may condition permission for the modification on the tenant agreeing to restore the bathroom to the original condition that existed before the modification, reasonable wear and tear excepted. It would be reasonable for the landlord to require that, at the end of their tenancy, the tenant (1) remove the grab bars and (2) repair the wall to which the grab bars were attached. However, it would be unreasonable for the landlord to require the tenant to remove the blocking, since the reinforced walls will not interfere with the landlord’s or the next tenant’s use and enjoyment of the premises.

 

Upkeep or Maintenance of Modification

The tenant is responsible for upkeep and maintenance of a modification that is used exclusively by them.  If a modification is made to a common area that is normally maintained by a housing provider, then the housing provider is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the modification.

EXAMPLE: Because of a mobility impairment, a tenant installs a ramp in the lobby of a multi-family building at their own expense. The ramp is used by other tenants and the public, as well as, the tenant with the disability. The housing provider is responsible for maintaining the ramp.
No Increases in Standard Security Deposit or Additional Insurance Requirements

A housing provider cannot require that the tenant obtain additional insurance or increase any customarily required security deposit as a condition that must be met before the modification will be allowed.

Interest Bearing Escrow Account

However, in certain limited and narrow circumstances, a housing provider may require that the tenant make payments into an interest-bearing escrow account to ensure with reasonable certainty that funds will be available to pay for the restorations of the interior of the dwelling unit to its previous state, ordinary wear and tear excepted, at the end of their tenancy.

Escrow Determining Factors

A housing provider may not routinely require that tenants place money in escrow accounts when a modification is sought, but must instead make a case-by-case determination. Both the amount and the terms of the escrow account are subject to negotiation between the housing provider and the tenant.

The decision to require that money be placed in an escrow account should be based on the following factors:

(1) the extent and nature of the proposed modifications

(2) the expected duration of the lease

(3) the credit and tenancy history of the individual tenant

(4) other information that may bear on the risk to the housing provider that the premises will not be restored

Escrow Account Terms

If the housing provider decides to require payments into an escrow account, the following apply:

  • The amount of money to be placed in the account cannot exceed the cost of restoring the modifications
  • The period of time during which the tenant makes payments into the escrow account must be reasonable
  • It does not automatically mean that the full amount of money needed to make the future restorations can be required to be paid at the time that the modifications are sought 
  • Interest from the account accrues to the benefit of the tenant
WHEN RENTAL PROPERTY OWNERS HAVE TO PAY FOR STRUCTURAL MODIFICATIONS

Although applicants and tenants are generally responsible for paying the costs of structural modifications, the following scenarios provide information about when the responsibility to pay for structural modifications shifts to the property owner. 

IMPLICATIONS FOR NEW CONSTRUCTION MULTI-FAMILY HOUSING SUBJECT TO FHA’s DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION REQUIREMENTS

Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), discrimination includes a failure to design and construct new construction, multi-family housing for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, so that it is in compliance with the Fair Housing Act’s design and construction requirements regarding accessibility. Multi-family housing covered under this requirement includes most apartment complexes and condominiums built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991. However, there are apartment complexes and condominiums that were built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, which do not meet all of the accessibility requirements under the Fair Housing Act. 

Therefore, if an applicant or tenant needs a structural modification due to their disability or the disability of a household member 

–AND– 

the property is covered by the Fair Housing Act’s accessibility requirements 

–AND– 

the specific modification the applicant or tenant is requesting is an accessibility feature which should have been included in the dwelling unit and/or the public and common-use area of the property when originally constructed  

–THEN– 

the property owner may be responsible for providing and paying for those requested structural changes–in order to bring the apartment complex into compliance with the FHA’s accessibility requirements.

IMPLICATIONS FOR PROPERTIES SUBJECT TO SECTION 504

If an applicant or tenant needs a structural modification due to their disability or the disability of a household member 

–AND– 

they are applying or living at an apartment complex that receives federal financial assistance 

–THEN– 

the property owner is subject to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which requires the property owner to provide and pay for the structural modifications to an applicant’s or tenant’s dwelling unit and/or the public and common-use areas of the property, unless the property owner can demonstrate that the costs involved with the modifications would amount to an undue financial burden. 

Examples of properties that receive federal financial assistance include public housing units owned by a Public Housing Authority, privately-owned apartments subsidized by HUD, privately owned apartments subsidized by USDA, etc.

This LINK allows you to access HUD’s Resource Locator website in order look up whether a property is a public housing site owned by a Public Housing Authority, a privately-owned apartment complex subsidized by HUD, or a privately owned apartment complex subsidized by USDA.

IMPLICATIONS FOR TDHCA HOUSING TAX CREDIT PROPERTIES AWARDED AFTER 2001

If an applicant or tenant needs a structural modification due to their disability or the disability of a household member 

–AND– 

they are applying or living at an apartment complex that participates in the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs’ (TDHCA) Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) Program 

–AND– 

the property was awarded after 2001 

–THEN– 

the property owner is subject to TDHCA’s program requirements which require the property owner to provide and pay for the structural modifications to an applicant’s or tenant’s dwelling unit and/or the public and common-use areas of the property, unless the property owner can demonstrate that the costs involved with the modifications would amount to an undue financial and administrative burden. 

This LINK allows you to access TDHCA’s online LIHTC Property Inventory in order to look up whether a property participates in TDCHA’s LIHTC Program and the year awarded.

DETERMINATION OF UNDUE FINANCIAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE BURDEN

The determination of whether a property owner can claim “undue financial and administrative burden” must be made on a case-by-case basis involving various factors, such as:

(1) the cost of the requested modification,

(2) the financial resources of the housing provider,

(3) the benefits that the modification would provide to the requester, and

(4) the availability of an alternative option that would effectively meet the requester’s disability-related needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is considered “housing discrimination” under the law?

Under the federal Fair Housing Act, it is considered "housing discrimination" for a covered housing provider (such as, an apartment manager, realtor, lender, etc.) to treat a person unfairly in the rental or sale of a dwelling due to that person's race, color, national origin, ancestry, birthplace, ethnicity, language spoken, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical disability, mental disability, or familial status (presence of a child/children under the age of 18 in the household).

Is there a deadline by when I have to file my housing discrimination complaint?

Yes. The deadline to file an administrative housing discrimination complaint with the United States Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) is one (1) year from the date of the discriminatory action by the housing provider.

HUD is the government agency responsible for enforcing the federal Fair Housing Act and accepts administrative complaints from consumers who feel they have been the victim of housing discrimination.

Our office can help consumers file their administrative complaints with HUD.

Can I file a housing discrimination complaint directly with the government?

Yes, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is the federal government agency responsible for enforcing the federal Fair Housing Act. If you live in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, or Oklahoma (Region 6), you can contact the HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) Intake Department in Fort Worth, Texas to file a fair housing complaint over the telephone by calling (888) 560-8913.

The deadline to file a complaint with HUD is one (1) year from the date of the discriminatory action.

How can I get assistance with filing my housing discrimination complaint?

You can contact our office via email at info@fairhousingtx.org or via telephone at (210) 733-3247, ext. 101 in order to have a staff member contact you back in order to get additional information to determine (1) if your complaint alleges housing discrimination under the federal Fair Housing Act, (2) if the statute of limitations deadline has passed, and (3) if you live in our service area. When you send your email or leave a voicemail message, please make sure to include your name, phone number, and a short description of your housing problem. Thank you.