by Barbara Cline
Do you live in a high-rise, rent or own your unit and have a disability?
Then you have a powerful ally – the federal Fair Housing Act, as amended in 1988, prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of disability.
Under the Act, a housing provider cannot refuse to make “reasonable accommodations” in rules, policies, practices or services if necessary for a disabled person to use and enjoy their housing.
Housing providers include landlords and both condominium and cooperative community associations.
In April 2011, a disabled high-riser in our community sent his housing provider a letter, asking to lease a space in his high-rise’s parking garage. The high-riser had been parking on the street and his disability had increasingly compromised his ability to walk.
His letter went unanswered.
The high-riser contacted the Equal Rights Center (ERC), a non-profit organization specializing in civil rights.
The high-riser sent a second letter that May, this time written by the ERC and requesting reasonable accommodation.
Again, the letter went unanswered.
That July the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, a provider of pro bono legal services, filed a housing discrimination complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
In September 2011, the high-riser and his Committee attorneys met with the housing provider in a mediation hearing before the DC Office of Human Rights.
At the hearing, the housing provider offered no reason for denying the accommodation request.
The final settlement included:
1) the issuance of an indoor parking space license to the high-riser to be effective as long as he resides in the building;
2) the retrofit of the parking garage with an accessible door and ramp; and
3) an award of financial damages, including two years of free parking.
The Equal Rights Center has developed a toolkit to inform both people with disabilities and their housing providers of their rights and responsibilities:
The Reasonable Accommodations and Modifications: An Accessibility Self-Advocacy Toolkit includes tips on how to document and ask for an accommodation, along with two sample request letters.
Fair Housing Month
The U.S. Dept of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) designates April as National Fair Housing Month. On Thursday, April 18, the 12th Annual Fair Housing Symposium will be held at the Mt. Vernon Place United Methodist Church, 900 Massachusetts Avenue, NW from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm.
Registration is free. For more information and to register: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/5532826834#