Sens. Dodd and Shelby announce bipartisan housing stimulus package
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 come." 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 clubhouse. 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 requirement? •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 a modification? •What types of documents and assurances may a housing provider require, regarding the modification, before granting the modification? •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 and www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/disabilities. 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.