By Jo Becker, Education/Outreach Specialist, Fair Housing Council of Oregon
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of disability. It requires that housing providers address the needs of current and prospective housing consumers (renters, buyers, etc.) who have disabilities, if asked. This requirement applies to, essentially, all housing.
If you have a disability, you have the right to ask for what you feel you need because of the condition and your housing provider must consider the request. Of course, not all requests are, in fact, “reasonable,” but there are narrow reasons requests may be denied (www.FHCO.org/pdfs/RA-RMinfo.pdf).
Kinds of Requests:
- A “reasonable accommodation” (RA) is a change in rules, procedures, or services that gives a person with a disability equal access, such as accommodating an assistance animal at a ‘no pets’ property.
- A “reasonable modification” (RM) is a change to the physical structure that is needed to allow full use and enjoyment of the premises, such as a ramp for a wheelchair or walker.
Generally, housing providers pay costs associated with a RA. However, consumers typically pay for RMs, except in subsidized rental housing.
How Do I Make a Request?
It is good to make the request in writing and keep a copy for yourself. Legally, every request must be considered, whether it’s written or verbal but putting it in writing can prove helpful (see samples at www.FHCO.org/forms.htm). You may not legally be asked if you have a disability, for any details about your condition, or to share your medical records.
Your housing provider does have the right to ask for a letter from a doctor or other qualified individual verifying the request. It’s good to get your verification letter(s) before you make a request (see samples at www.FHCO.org/forms.htm).
The needs of those with disabilities can be as unique and wide ranging as there are individuals themselves. Remember, every request must be considered, even if the words “accommodation” or “modification” aren’t used and even if the request is not made in writing. Gather verification and provide it as you make the request.
If you or someone you know has a disability, visit www.FHCO.org/disability.htm or call the Fair Housing Hotline at 800/424-3247 Ext. 2 for help preparing a request. Contact us if you feel a request has been unreasonably denied.
This article brought to you by the Fair Housing Council; a nonprofit serving the state of Oregon and SW Washington. Learn more and / or sign up for our free, periodic newsletter at www.FHCO.org.
Qs about your rights and responsibilities under fair housing laws?
Visit FHCO.org or call 1-800-424-3247 Ext. 2.
Interested in training sessions, workshops or speakers about fair housing laws?
Contact us at www.FHCO.org/events_classes.htm.
Much of the information provided above was originally designed by the Fair Housing Partners of Washington State and made possible by a grant from the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. We thank them both for allowing us to share this information with you.
 Federally protect classes under the FHA include: race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (children) and disability. OR law also protects marital status, source of income, sexual orientation / gender identity, and domestic violence survivors. Additional protected classes have been added by local jurisdictions. Visit www.FHCO.org/pdfs/matrix_ore.pdf for more information.
 landlords, sales agents, mortgage lenders, home insurance carriers, homeowners associations, homeless shelters, designated senior communities as well as long term care facilities such as retirement communities, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities, etc.
 Under fair housing laws, a “disability” is any condition that substantially impairs a major life activity such as walking, breathing, thinking, seeing, sleeping, learning, etc. Learn more at www.FHCO.org/disability.htm.