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Understanding Accessible Housing: The Fair Housing Act

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An accessible home is one that allows its occupant to do what he or she wants and needs to do, as independently as possible. If you or someone in your family is disabled, your home may need specific modifications to make it accessible for daily living. You are protected under the Fair Housing Act, which stipulates property owners to make, or allow residents to make, a home accessible for those with specific or special needs. This includes military installation housing.

The Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act requires housing providers to:

  • Make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. A property owner, however, is not required to make changes that would create an undue financial or administrative burden.
  • Allow people with disabilities to make reasonable modifications. Property owners must allow residents to make changes to their units if those changes are necessary for the tenant to use the unit fully.

The Fair Housing Act also makes it illegal — based on your or family member’s disability — to:

  • Refuse to rent a dwelling or to accept a legitimate offer
  • Evict someone
  • Use different applications or criteria
  • Segregate people to specific units or areas
  • Ask if anyone has a disability
  • Refuse to make or allow reasonable modifications or accommodations

The Fair Housing Act applies to most housing options. In fact, many states have fair housing laws that provide even greater protections. For your specific state law, contact your public housing agency. Learn how to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

The Architectural Barriers Act

Did you know that the Architectural Barriers Act requires access to all buildings designed, built, altered or leased with federal funds? According to the United States Access Board, at least 5 percent of each military installation’s housing is required to be either accessible or readily and easily modifiable for accessibility.

Privatized housing for military members with a family member with special needs

In privatized housing on military installations, property managers are required to make reasonable alterations and accommodations that abide by the Americans With Disabilities Act at no cost to the tenant.

What families with special needs should do prior to relocation

The availability of affordable on- and off-installation housing varies from one location to another. Military families with special housing requirements should contact the housing office or the Exceptional Family Member Program coordinator at their new duty location as early as possible. You can find contact information for both of these resources through MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.

How to handle accessible housing denials

If you’ve been wrongfully denied accessible housing, you should:

  • File an administrative complaint. You can file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development within one year. To bring action under state law, contact the responsible state agency.
  • File a private lawsuit. You can file a suit in federal court within two years. However, deadlines for state court actions vary.

If you are moving and your family member has specific accessibility needs, reach out to your new installation’s housing office for help in finding a home that has everything you need to make your life as easy and comfortable as possible.

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