What is the Federal Fair Housing Act and what types of discrimination does it prohibit against person with disabilities?
The Federal Fair Housing Act (FHAct), 42 U.S.C. 3601-19, prohibits discrimination in housing practices on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, and disability. (FHAct uses the term "handicap"; however, this document uses the term "disability," which has the same legal meaning.) The Act prohibits housing providers from discriminating against persons because of their disability or the disability of anyone associated with them and from treating persons with disabilities less favorably than others because of the disability. The Act also requires housing providers "to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford such person(s) equal opportunity to use and enjoy any dwelling." In addition, the Act requires that housing providers allow tenants to make reasonable modifications to units and common spaces in a dwelling. The Act applies to the vast ,majority of privately and publicly owned housing, including housing subsidized by the federal government or rented through the use of Section 8 voucher assistance. HUD's regulations implementing the disability discrimination prohibitions of the Act may be found at 24 CFR 100.201-205
When can a federally assisted housing provider insist on an alternative to the accommodation requested by a tenant?
If the housing provider believes the requested accommodation is unreasonable, the housing provider may, but is not required to, propose a substitute accommodation requested by the tenant or applicant because the individual with a disability is most familiar with his or her disability and is in the best position to determine what type of aid or service will be effective. If the housing provider suggests an alternative accommodation, the tenant may reject it if he or she feels it does not meet his or her needs.
What happens if a federally assisted housing provider fails to act on a request for an accommodation?
If a housing provider delays responding to a request for an accommodation, after a reasonable amount of time, that delay may be constructed as a failure to provide a reasonable accommodation. A tenant or applicant may choose to seek legal assistance or file a complaint with HUD.
Is a federally assisted housing provider obligated to provide an accommodation to a tenant or applicant if he or she has not requested it?
No. Such a housing provider is only obligated to provide an accommodation if the provider is on notice of the request. However, a person with a disability will be considered to have asked for an accommodation if he or she indicates that a change or exception to a policy, practice, or procedure or modification would assist him or her in making more effective use of his or her housing, even if the words "reasonable accommodation" are not used as part of the request.
When and how should an individual request an accommodation?
An individual with a disability should request an accommodation as soon as it appears that the accommodation is needed. However, requests may be made at any time. For example, requests may be made when an individual is applying for housing, entering into a lease, or occupying housing. Individuals who become disabled during their tenancy may request accommodation, even if they were not disabled when they signed their leases.
Section 504 does not prescribe a uniform procedure for requesting a reasonable accommodation to be used with all housing providers. To request an accommodation, an individual need not mention Section 504 or use the phrase "reasonable accommodation." In general, a tenant or prospective tenant should make clear to the housing provider that he or she is requesting that an exception, change, adjustment, or modification be made to a rule, policy, practice, service, building or dwelling unit because he or she has a disability. He or she should explain what type of accommodation is requested and explain the relationship between the requested accommodation and his or her disability. In order to facilitate the process and consideration of the request, tenants or prospective tenants may wish to check with a housing provider in advance to determine whether that housing provider has established any specific procedure regarding requests for reasonable accommodation. Although the Section 504 regulations do not require it, it is usually helpful that the request be made in writing so there will be documentation that the request was actually made in the event of a later dispute.
How do you determine whether a request for a certain accommodation is reasonable?
Whether a particular accommodation is "reasonable" depends on a variety of factors and must be decided on a case-by-case basis. The determination of whether a requested accommodation is reasonable depends on the answers to two questions. First, does the request impose an undue financial and administrative burden on the housing provider? Second, would making the accommodation require a fundamental alteration in the nature of the provider's operations? If the answer to either of these is yes, the requested accommodation is not reasonable. However, even where a housing provider is not obligated to provide a particular accommodation because the particular accommodation is not reasonable, the provider is still obligated to provide other requested accommodations that do qualify as reasonable.
May a landlord charge a person who uses a wheelchair a higher security deposit because of concerns about damage to the dwelling unit?
No. A wheelchair user is no more likely than anyone else to cause damage, beyond typical wear and tear, to a dwelling unit. However, if a person who uses a wheelchair does cause damage to a unit that is beyond normal wear and tear, whether the damage is related to the wheelchair or not, that individual may be required to cover such damage out of a standard security deposit that is charged to everyone.
May a recipient refuse to rent to a person with a mental disability because he is uncomfortable with the individual?
No. Section 504 and related laws like the Fair Housing Act make it unlawful for a housing provider to refuse to rent to a person simply because of a disability. Therefore, a housing provider may not refuse to rent to an otherwise eligible individual because of fears or concerns that may be based on myths or stereotypes about persons with mental disabilities.
What discriminatory practices does Section 504 prohibit?
Section 504 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in any program, service, or activity that receives federal financial assistance. This means, for example, that persons with disabilities may not be denied the opportunity to participate in a program, service, or activity; may not be required to accept a different kind or lesser program or service than what is provided to others; and may not be required to participate in separate programs and services, even if separate programs and services exist. In general, with respect to housing, it means that a housing provider may not deny or refuse to sell or rent to a person with a disability, and may not impose application or qualification criteria, rental fees or sales prices, and rental or sales terms or conditions that are different than those required of or provided to persons who are not disabled. Housing providers may not require persons with disabilities to live only on certain floors, or to all live in one section of the housing. Housing providers may not refuse to make repairs and may not limit or deny someone with a disability access to recreational and other public and common use facilities, parking privileges, cleaning or janitorial services or any services which are made available to other residents. People with disabilities may not be denied the opportunity to serve on planning or advisory boards because of their disabilities.
How is disability defined?
An individual with a disability is any person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. The term "physical or mental impairment" may include, but is not limited to, conditions such as visual or hearing impairment, mobility impairment, HIV infection, mental retardation, drug addiction (except current illegal use of or addiction to drugs), or mental illness. The term "major life activity" may include seeing, hearing, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, caring for oneself, learning, speaking, or impairment, or are regarded as having such impairment.
Who is protected by the law?
Persons with disabilities.
Are there regulations that explain what needs to be done in order to comply with Section 504?
Yes. HUD's regulations for Section 504 that apply to federally assisted programs may be found in the Code of Federal Regulations at 24 CFR Part 8. There are also regulations that govern Section 504 in programs conducted by HUD which may be found at 24 CFR Part 9, however, this web site focuses on Section 504's requirements for federally assisted programs, services and activities.
What is Section 504?
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 states: "No otherwise qualified individual with disability in the United States...shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program, service or activity receiving federal financial assistance or under any program or activity conducted by any executive agency or by the United States Postal Service." (29 U.S.C. 794). This means that Section 504 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in any program or activity that receives financial assistance from any federal agency, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as well as in programs conducted be the federal agencies including HUD.
What are the most commonly failed inspection items?
The following list will help identify the most common items that arise during inspections. Please correct any deficiencies prior to the inspection date. There may be additional considerations at the time of inspection.
- Smoke detector inoperable or missing
- Light switch and/or outlet cover is cracked or missing
- Windows are either broken or won't lock, missing or torn screens or bent frames
- Any water or sewer/septic leaks - bathroom or kitchen
- Peeling, chipping or flaking paint inside or outside
- Torn, ripped or loose carpet or linoleum
- Garbage, trash or debris in yard or house
- Must have working stove and refrigerator (all burners on stove must work properly and refrigerator must be in good condition)
- Utilities not on (including LP Gas)
- Missing handrail on steps or porch, loose blocks used for steps, rotting or missing wood on porch or steps.
What discriminatory practices does Section 504 prohibit?
What is a reasonable accommodation under Section 504?
A "reasonable accommodation" is a change, adaption or modification to a policy, program, service, or workplace which allows a qualified person with a disability to participate fully in a program, take advantage of a service, or perform a job. Reasonable accommodations may include, for example, those which are necessary in order for the person with a disability to use and enjoy a dwelling, including public and common use spaces. Since persons with disabilities may have special needs due to their disabilities, in some cases, simply treating them exactly the same as others may not ensure that they have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.
In order to show that a requested accommodation may be necessary, there must be an identifiable relationship, or nexus, between the requested accommodation and the individual's disability. As discussed elsewhere in these FAQs, what is reasonable must be determined on a case-by-case basis. However, experience has shown that the following examples are often reasonable accommodations.
- A federally assisted housing provider has a policy of not providing assigned parking spaces. A tenant with a mobility impairment, who has difficulty walking, is provided a reasonable accommodation by being given an assigned accessible parking space in front of the entrance to his unit.
- A federally assisted housing provider has a policy of requiring tenants to come to the rental office to pay rent. A tenant with a mental disability, who is afraid to leave her unit, is provided a reasonable accommodation by being allowed to mail her rent payment.
- A federally assisted housing provider that has a no-pets policy. A tenant, who uses a wheelchair and has difficulty picking up items off the ground, is allowed to have an assistive animal that fetches things for her as a reasonable accommodation to her disability.
- An older tenant has a stroke and begins to use a wheelchair. Her apartment has steps at the entrance and she needs a ramp to enter the unit. Her federally assisted housing provider pays for the construction of a ramp as a reasonable accommodation to the tenant's disability.
Who takes care of tenant-caused damages during tenancy?
As in all tenancies, repairs for tenant-caused damages are the responsibility of the tenant. Failure to make repairs may be grounds to terminate the lease. The security deposit may also be used for reimbursement costs.
Does housing authority screen tenants?
The Housing Authority does screening as to income eligiblity for the program, as well as a criminal background screening and a landlord reference check.
Is there a maximum income that would make me ineligible?
Yes. The maximum gross income a family may have is based on the family size. Income limits are posted on www.hud.gov, or you may go to the complex of your choice on this website for further information.
Is there a minimum age requirement?
Yes. You and your co-head, if any, must be at least 18 years of age.
What should I do if my income, family composition, or address changes before I am housed?
You will need to contact us at Covington Housing Authority immediately. This should be done as soon as the change occurs, as this might affect eligibility.
How do I obtain an application?
Who should I contact regarding the status of my application?
You will contact the occupancy specialist, Jackie Dillon.
Can I apply at more than one complex?
When you complete an application, you will be on a waiting list at all four properties.
Applicant will be on the waiting list for the size bedroom they qualify for. Also, one of our complexes is for 62 years and older.
How much will my rent be?
Your rent is based on income.
How long will I have to wait before I am called for an apartment?
There is no way to predict how long you may have to wait before you are called for an apartment. This depends on when people move out and a vacancy occurs. It is very important that you notify the manager if there is any change of address or telephone number so you will be able to be reached.
How long will my application remain active?
Your application is active for one year. At that time, you will be sent a letter asking if you would like to remain on the list.
How do you screen applicants?
We conduct careful screening of applicants, 18 and over, for apartments we own and manage. Criminal background, credit history, and rental history are a few of the many things we check. For further information, you may download tenant selection criteria for the property you are interested in.