The Fair Housing Act of 1968 and Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990is a bit complicated for multi-family properties. If the laws are not followed, you could be faced with hefty fines.

The FHA requires property owners to provide reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities to use their properties. According to the FHA, ADA and Rehabilitation Act of 1973 definition, accommodations range beyond having wheelchair-accessible entrances or sidewalks and van-accessible parking spaces.

According to the FHA, Sect: 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a disability includes“a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activity”. There are approx. 1 out of every 5 adults that have a disability based on their definition. The most common disability was mobility limitation. This is defined as serious walking issues or climbing stairs. Other disabilities include mental concentration, memory and vision.

You may be surprised to know that most properties are out of compliance with the FHA accessibility laws. In most cases, this is not an intentional act but more of a lack of complete understanding of the law. For example, light switches may be too high, parking spaces, height of the mailbox and certain door handles may cause a property to be out of compliance.

What does this mean for you if you are out of compliance?

First, you need to be aware of the law and whether you are in compliance or not. You may not get a call from a federal agency but if your tenants are aware of the laws and have an issue with your property, they could quickly submit a complaint or notify the authorities.

What about ‘Emotional Support Animals?

There is a difference between emotional support animals and service animals under the ADA. A service animal is not a pet and therefore is exempt from pet deposits or any other pet-related fees. In addition, the dogs’ breed and size cannot have any restrictions. Also, you cannot ask about a person’s disability.

Penalties for Violations

You should take these laws seriously and have a full understanding of what they mean and how they apply to you.

There are approx. 53 million Americans with disabilities, so chances are you will have some as tenants. If you are found to be in violation of the ADA, civil fines can be put to $75k. The DOJ has a dedicated website page on how to file a complaint for violating ADA laws. Any tenant (with knowledge) can access and easily file complaints.

The ADA and FHA

The ADA began in 1990 and was setup to require “equal opportunity” for people with disabilities. The FHA was created to make discrimination in private and public housing illegal based on race, color, sex or national origin.  Since 1998, amendments were added to include disabilities.

ADA usually applies to public areas and not specific to properties. However, all the common areas on the property must comply with the ADA rules.

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