Disabled people have rights when renting living space. For example, landlords are not allowed to ask about disabilities and may have to provide accomodations.

Who Is Considered Disabled?

The federal Fair Housing Act and Fair Housing Amendments prohibit discrimination against people who:

  • have a physical or mental disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities — including, but not limited to:
    • mobility impairments
    • hearing impairments
    • visual impairments
    • chronic alcoholism (if it is being addressed through a recovery program)
    • mental illness
    • HIV, AIDS and AIDS-Related Complex, or
    • mental retardation
  • have a history of such a disability, or
  • are regarded by others as though they have such a disability.

What Questions Can A Landlord Ask About My Disability?

Landlords are prohibited from asking about their tenant’s disabilities or illnesses. Even if it is obvious that you are disabled, a landlord cannot ask about the severity of your disability. This is to guarantee that you are not treated differently than other potential tenants.  

A landlord cannot make decisions about where and how you will live on the property unless he would do the same for a non disabled tenant.  For example, if there are two units for rent — one on the ground floor and one on the second floor– the landlord must show both units to a disabled applicant, no matter how reasonable he thinks it would be for the person to consider only the ground floor unit. 

What Rights Does A Disabled Tenant Have To Accommodations?

Landlords may be required to make reasonable accommodations for disabled tenants at their own expense. This may include adjusting rules, regulations, or services to give you an equal opportunity to use and enjoy the rented property.  

For example, if a landlord provides parking, he may be required to provide close, spacious parking for a tenant in a wheelchair. This does not mean that a landlord must accomodate every request a disabled tenant makes. Although landlords are expected to accommodate "reasonable" requests, they do not need to make changes that would seriously impair their ability to run their business.

Disabled tenants may also have the right to make reasonable accomodations at their own expense. If modifications would make the space safer and more comfortable, you have the right to make them as long as they will not make the property unacceptable to the next tenant. Examples of these modifications include installing special faucets or door handles or installing a wheelchair ramp. These modifications must be made with prior approval of the landlord and the landlord is allowed to ask for proof that the modification will address your needs.

Should I Consult An Attorney About Rights Of Disabled Renters?

Disabled tenants are entitled to special considerations.  An attorney can help explain the law and assert your rights if you are discriminated against. If you’re disabled, a real estate attorney can help get you accomodations which will make your living space more safe and comfortable. If you are a landlord, an attorney can help ensure that you are following the law and making only "reasonable" accomodations.