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Housing Discrimination
What You Should Know about Renting with a Disability

What You Should Know about Renting with a Disability

What You Should Know about Renting with a Disability


What You Should Know about Renting with a Disability

All tenants should know what they are entitled to, and there are other considerations if you're part of a protected class. There are certain laws concerning disabilities and specific rights to be aware of. Keep on reading for information to keep in mind for tenants renting with a disability.

What is Considered a Disability?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a disabled person is defined as "a person who has a mental or physical impairment that limits one or more major life activities." This includes mental illness, hearing, mobility, or visual impairments, intellectual disabilities, and AIDS-related disorders, to name a few. As someone who fits this definition, you may be subject to mistreatment and discrimination.

Housing Discrimination Examples

Under the ADA and various federal (the Fair Housing Act), state, and local laws, Bay Area renters are protected against housing discrimination on the basis of disability. Some examples may include the following:

  • Landlord refusing to rent or negotiate housing
  • Denying or harassing prospective tenants based on their disability
  • Assigning a tenant to a particular area of housing or providing different housing services/facilities
  • Requiring prospective tenants to provide additional qualification conditions

Landlord Questions about Disabilities

Other violations revolve around conversations with prospective tenants. For instance, a landlord can't ask if a tenant is able to live independently. Other unlawful questions:

  • What is your disability?
  • How did you get your disability?
  • How often do you use your wheelchair?
  • Will your disability impact your ability to pay rent on time?
  • Are you taking medications?
  • What's your medical history?

The following are acceptable questions, but are only allowed if they are posed to everyone and not just targeted to certain individuals:

  • Do you require specific modification and accessibility accommodations?
  • Do you use illegal substances or have an addiction to illegal substances?
  • Can you meet the tenancy requirements?
  • Do you qualify for a unit that is available for people only with a certain disability?

Tenants' Rights to Reasonable Accommodations

Disabled tenants are entitled to request a reasonable accommodation. This is an adjustment or an exception to a service that may be needed for a person with disabilities to have an equal opportunity to use/enjoy the housing, such as a service animal request.

You're also allowed to make a request for a modification to the unit (should be in writing) to enable you to use the space. You can make this or any request, as long as there is a relationship between the modification/accommodation and the disability; the landlord is allowed to ask for proof that the request is necessary.

The costs generally fall on the landlord to make out of pocket, but they aren't required if it's "unreasonable." This means that the shift would result in an undue burden on the landlord or is a major change in the property, like an elevator request.

What if your Reasonable Accommodation Request is Denied?

After you've made your written request and it's considered unreasonable, the suggested approach is to work through a reasonable compromise. However, you have the right to file a discrimination complaint if your landlord declines after receiving adequate proof of necessity. This is why you may want to seek help from a knowledgeable tenants' rights attorney. Here at Wolford Wayne we can assist you with this and addressing other discriminatory treatment. Contact us today for further information.

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For more information or to discuss your legal situation, call us today at (415) 649-6203 for a phone consultation or submit an inquiry below. Please note our firm can only assist tenants residing in San Francisco, Oakland & Berkeley.

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