The National Housing Law Project (NHLP) issued a brief on the role of federal and state reasonable accommodation laws in advocacy on behalf of people with disabilities and applicants for federally assisted housing.
The 1988 amendments to the Federal Fair Housing Act prohibit discrimination that prevents people with disabilities from living in the communities of their choice. In addition to adding disability as a protected class, the FHAA makes it unlawful to:
- Refuse to permit reasonable physical modifications of certain premises.
- Refuse to make reasonable accommodations in housing rules and policies.
- Fail to include certain accessibility features in the design and construction of new multifamily dwellings.
The outline provides a basic description of other federal laws including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It explains what qualifies as a disability for the purposes of reasonable accommodation. The outline includes a chapter explaining how to request a reasonable accommodation and a chapter describing common issues or problems arising in federally assisted housing.
Regarding enforcement, NHLP explains that an individual who has been a victim of discrimination on the basis of disability can file a complaint with HUD within one year after the date of the discrimination. HUD must then decide within 100 days whether to pursue the complaint. HUD has a duty to conciliate, and if that fails, it may proceed through an administrative law judge (ALJ) or through the Justice Department in federal court. Remedies before an ALJ include compensatory damages, injunctive or equitable relief and civil penalties in the public interest between $16,000 and $65,000.
The final chapter summarizes the obligation of public housing agencies (PHAs) to submit PHA Plans. NHLP suggests that this annual process provides an opportunity for advocates to comment on their PHA’s policies regarding reasonable accommodation, and to work toward implementing ones more advantageous to people with disabilities. In addition, PHAs must have Section 8 Administrative Plans for their Housing Choice Voucher programs as well as administrative plans for their public housing program. Both should include the PHA’s policies on reasonable accommodation.
Finally, private owners of HUD-assisted housing that is subject to HUD Handbook 4350.3 must have a written tenant selection plan (TSP). Typically, HUD does not approve this plan. But owners must modify the TSP if HUD becomes aware that the TSP does not comply with requirements such as policies for complying with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Fair Housing Act, and for unit transfers for medical reasons or the need for an accessible unit