HUD and DOJ release new guidance on Fair Housing ActMortgagePress.compersons with disabilities, reasonable modifications, discrimination prohibited by the Act
New guidance released recently by the Departments of Housing and Urban
Development (HUD) and the Department of Justice (DOJ)
reinforced the right of persons with disabilities to make
reasonable modifications to their dwellings. Reasonable
modifications are permitted if a structural change to their
dwelling or to a common area of the building/complex in which they
live is needed for them to fully enjoy the premises.
The guidance is designed to help housing providers and
homeowners' associations better understand their obligations, and
to help persons with disabilities better understand their rights
regarding the reasonable modifications provision of the federal
Fair Housing Act (the Act).
"The right to reasonable modifications is essential to ensuring
that persons with disabilities can fully enjoy the homes in which
they live," said Grace Chung Becker, acting assistant attorney
general for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. "This
guidance will help housing providers understand their obligations
under this important component of the [the Act]."
"Persons with disabilities have [the] right to have the place
they call home altered in a way that will enable them to fully
enjoy it," said Kim Kendrick, HUD's assistant secretary for Fair
Housing and Equal Opportunity. "This guidance is a major step
toward enforcing that right today, and for generations to
The Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on disability,
race, color, religion, national origin, sex and familial status.
HUD and DOJ share responsibility for enforcing the Act. HUD is the
agency with the primary responsibility to investigate individual
complaints of discrimination. On his own initiative, the secretary
of HUD may file complaints alleging discrimination. In addition,
the attorney general may commence a civil action in federal court
when he has reasonable cause to believe that persons are engaged in
a pattern or practice of discrimination, or that a group of persons
has been denied rights protected by the Act.
One type of discrimination prohibited by the Act is the refusal
by housing providers or homeowner associations to permit a
reasonable modification—for example, a structural
alteration—of existing premises, occupied or to be occupied
by a person with a disability, when the modification may be
necessary to afford the person full enjoyment of the premises.
Although the housing provider or homeowner association must permit
the modification, the tenant (or prospective tenant) is responsible
for paying the cost of the modification. Examples of reasonable
modifications include widening doorways to make rooms more
accessible to persons who use wheelchairs or installing a ramp to
provide access to a public or common use area, such as a
The new guidelines, issued in the form of questions and answers,
cover such topics as:
•What is a reasonable modification?
•Who must comply with the reasonable modification
•Who is responsible for expenses associated with the upkeep
or maintenance of a reasonable modification?
•When and how should an individual request permission to make
•What types of documents and assurances may a housing
provider require, regarding the modification, before granting the
•What procedures are available to a person wishing to
challenge a denial of a requested modification?
The guidelines are available online at both www.usdoj.gov/fairhousing
Since January 2001, HUD and its Fair Housing Assistance Program
partners have investigated and either conciliated or charged nearly
10,000 cases that alleged discrimination based on disability. Since
Jan. 1, 2001, the DOJ's Civil Rights Division has filed 244 cases
to enforce the Act, 115 of which have alleged discrimination based
on disability. More information about HUD and the civil rights laws
it enforces is available at www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/aboutfheo/aboutfheo.cfm.
More information about the DOJ Civil Rights Division and the laws
it enforces is available at www.usdoj.gov/crt.
Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of
housing discrimination should contact HUD at (800) 669-9777. In
addition, individuals may contact the DOJ at (800) 896-7743 or
e-mail DOJ at [email protected]
For more information, visit www.hud.gov or visit www.usdoj.gov.