American Disabilities Act For Renters


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A Tenants Guide To Renting With A Disability

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According to federal law, tenants and prospective tenants with an impairment have the right to apply for and live in a rental unit regardless of their disability. When a landlord denies housing to or discriminates against tenants with disabilities, they have violated the law. Here are some resources and rights to know before you seek to rent an apartment as a tenant with a disability.

Raising Disability Eviction Defense

If a disabled tenant finds himself in court, he can raise his disability as a legal defense which is permitted under the Fair Housing Amendments Act . The judge should ascertain not only the nature of the disability, but whether the tenants due process rights have been violated by the eviction action. If there is no consideration for his disability or a reasonable accommodation or compromise was not made, it is a violation of the FHAA.

Get Everything In Writing

Both tenants and landlords should get everything in writing as they work to come to an agreement about who’s responsible for which ADA compliance issues. If something goes wrong in the future and one party files a complaint in court, documented terms and signed paperwork will help sort through the problem and come to the best solution for everyone.

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What Are Reasonable Accommodations

The ADA requires that landlords make reasonable accommodations for renters with disabilities. A reasonable accommodation is a change in rules, policies, or services that enable a person with a disability the equal opportunity to use and enjoy their home and any common spaces. A housing provider is required by law to accommodate a person with a disability, as long as the request doesnt create an undue financial burden. Common accommodations include installing access ramps, providing a reserved parking spot at the front of a building, or allowing service animals in a unit where pets are not usually welcome.

Ada And Service Animals

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One area where landlords often run into trouble with the Americans with Disabilities Act is with service dogs. For tenants with disabilities, landlords must allow service animals to live on the premises, even if the property is otherwise animal-free.

Due to the rise of people claiming animals as emotional support animals to use the law as an advantage, provisions have been added.

Landlords and business owners must allow certified service animals to accompany anyone with a disability.

According to Title II and Title III of the ADA, service animals are trained to perform specific tasks for those living with a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. These include animals that perform tasks associated with the disability: pulling a wheelchair, alerting someone at the door, retrieving household goods, or pressing elevator buttons.

In contrast, emotional support animals any animal providing comfort but not trained in specific tasks are not protected under Title II and Title III of the ADA. Emotional support animals do not meet the particular needs of the disabled individual. Therefore, they do not fall under service animal protections.

Landlords and property owners, and managers are not required to allow tenants to have emotional support animals on the premises under the ADA. Likewise, business owners are not required to allow emotional support animals into their offices.

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The Ada Protects People With Disabilities

A person with a disability is someone who:

  • has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities,
  • has a history or record of such an impairment , or
  • is perceived by others as having such an impairment .

If a person falls into any of these categories, the ADA protects them. Because the ADA is a law, and not a benefit program, you do not need to apply for coverage.

substantially limits

The term substantially limits is interpreted broadly and is not meant to be a demanding standard. But not every condition will meet this standard. An example of a condition that is not substantially limiting is a mild allergy to pollen.

major life activities

Major life activities are the kind of activities that you do every day, including your bodys own internal processes. There are many major life activities in addition to the examples listed here. Some examples include:

  • Actions like eating, sleeping, speaking, and breathing
  • Movements like walking, standing, lifting, and bending
  • Cognitive functions like thinking and concentrating
  • Sensory functions like seeing and hearing
  • Tasks like working, reading, learning, and communicating
  • The operation of major bodily functions like circulation, reproduction, and individual organs

Establishing A Reference For Assistance Needs

Can my child safely live on his own or will he require some supervision? Housing programs arent about grants and financial assistance only. Some programs actually support the independent living arrangement, either through a non-profit or private organization that promises some kind of on-site presence in close proximity to your childs apartment.

What can I contribute, if anything, to my childs cost of living? This is an important point as many grants and assistance programs often use parental support to determine a persons eligibility. Be honest with yourself about this number, but understand that many aid programs often believe you can contribute much more than you feel comfortable with. Each organization will use a different calculation method, but this tool might offer a similar estimation of what you might expect to contribute to another aid program.

How will I provide for my childs independent living in the event of my death? Regardless of whether youre providing complete financial support or splitting the difference through grants, SSI, and other programs, youll need to establish a safety net for your child. This safety net should concern not only the finances but administrative support as well. Many grants and special programs require complicated applications and renewal processes. Its a smart idea to designate a default Power of Attorney who may handle all the fine details of your childs independence in the event of your passing.

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Can A Landlord Ask For Proof Of Disability

If its unclear whether or not the tenant is disabled, landlords are only allowed to ask for proof of disability when the tenant is asking for accommodations or modifications to be made to the property.

The tenant does not have to give specifics of the disability or give a copy of medical history. The only information that is needed is proof that the tenant has a covered disability, that accommodations are necessary, and that the proposed accommodations will help the tenant utilize the unit properly.

Who Is Considered Disabled

What Is Title II of the ADA?

Under the ADA, landlords are prohibited from inquiring about the exact nature of a persons disability even if the disability is highly visible, for example if the prospective tenant uses a wheelchair. However the ADA addresses what is legally considered a disability in clear, concise language. To be covered under the ADA, a person must have a physical or mental disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities. A partial list of protected disabilities include:

  • Mobility impairments

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Sec 12204 Regulations By Architectural And Transportation Barriers Compliance Board

Issuance of guidelines

Not later than 9 months after July 26, 1990, the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board shall issue minimum guidelines that shall supplement the existing Minimum Guidelines and Requirements for Accessible Design for purposes of subchapters II and III of this chapter.

Contents of guidelines

The supplemental guidelines issued under subsection of this section shall establish additional requirements, consistent with this chapter, to ensure that buildings, facilities, rail passenger cars, and vehicles are accessible, in terms of architecture and design, transportation, and communication, to individuals with disabilities.

Qualified historic properties

In general

The supplemental guidelines issued under subsection of this section shall include procedures and requirements for alterations that will threaten or destroy the historic significance of qualified historic buildings and facilities as defined in 4.1.7 of the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards.

Sites eligible for listing in National Register

With respect to alterations of buildings or facilities that are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places under the National Historic Preservation Act , the guidelines described in paragraph shall, at a minimum, maintain the procedures and requirements established in 4.1.7 and of the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards.

Other sites

What Rights And Responsibilities Do Landlords Have

A landlord or property manager has complimentary rights to the renter. A landlord has the right to receive payment for damages caused by a service animal, require a tenant to pay for the cost of accessibility modifications to their unit, and have a tenant restore the unit to its original state before moving out.

Most importantly, a landlord has a responsibility to comply with Fair Housing laws and ensure their property is ADA compliant. They cannot deny an application based on an actual or perceived disability, nor can they charge additional fees based on a disability, or discriminate based on the source of income. A landlord is also responsible for granting reasonable requests for modifications and accommodations.

Finally, a landlord must refrain from asking an applicant or tenant if they have a disability or for proof of a disability. You can ask for proof that a specific accommodation is necessary if it is not obvious why, but the proof does not need to specifically outline what the disability is.

For example, if a tenant is asking a property manager to waive a guest fee for a live-in home health aide, you can ask for a note from a professional that indicates this is an acceptable accommodation for the tenants situation. The note does not need to clarify why the tenant needs a live-in home health aide.

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What Is A Disability Under The Law

Before getting started, its important to understand what qualifies as a protected disability under the law. Adult children with special needs are one specific class outlined by the Social Security Administration who have a disabling impairment must have started before age 22. However, there are many qualifying disabilities that receive protection under many areas of the government, including employment, housing, and transportation.

While SSA determines ones eligibility for disability benefits, the Americans With Disabilities Act outlines protections for and definitions of people with disabilities. The ADA is featured in Chapter 126 Equal Opportunity For Individuals With Disabilities under Title 42 of The Public Health And Welfare. Other government agencies have a responsibility to enforce these ADA as well as laws pertaining to housing that are outlined in the next section.

Summary of the ADA: The ADA notes disabilities as mental or physical impairments that inhibit significant aspects of ones daily life and/or bodily functions. Many conditions fall under these definitions, but some may not qualify. The difference is generally the extent to which a condition limits a persons activities.

Certain cases have been argued and won to obtain protected disability status for people with HIV or AIDS as well as people with mental illness.

Service And Emotional Support Animals For Persons With Disabilities

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Reasonable accommodations also relate to the renters right to have a service animal live in the rental unit regardless of pet policies. Under the Fair Housing Act, property owners are obligated to allow the use of animals that work, provide assistance, or perform tasks that benefit persons with disabilities. Landlords are allowed to request documentation for registered service animals including certificates and vet records.

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Disabled Renters Can Apply For Funding

Housing and Urban Development allows you to apply for funding. This program may provide renters funding to cover the cost of renting property. In some cases, renters may receive enough to cover the entire rental cost.

Landlords do not have to accept funding through HUD. They, too, must apply to provide housing. If approved, they can adjust their rent to accommodate a lower rate. When applying for funding, landlords have the right to ask for proof of a tenants disability.

Who Can Request Reasonable Accommodations Or Modifications

Any person with a disability is legally entitled to request accommodations or modifications within reason. This ensures that all people regardless of disability are able to live in rental units with the same safety, inclusivity, and comfort as all residents. Landlords and property managers are not legally allowed to deny any reasonable requests or discriminate against any tenant, prospective or current, with disabilities.

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Sec 12184 Prohibition Of Discrimination In Specified Public Transportation Services Provided By Private Entities

General rule

No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of specified public transportation services provided by a private entity that is primarily engaged in the business of transporting people and whose operations affect commerce.


For purposes of subsection of this section, discrimination includes

the imposition or application by an entity described in subsection of eligibility criteria that screen out or tend to screen out an individual with a disability or any class of individuals with disabilities from fully enjoying the specified public transportation services provided by the entity, unless such criteria can be shown to be necessary for the provision of the services being offered

the failure of such entity to

make reasonable modifications consistent with those required under section 12182 of this title

provide auxiliary aids and services consistent with the requirements of section 12182 of this title and

remove barriers consistent with the requirements of section 12182 of this title and with the requirements of section 12183 of this title

the purchase or lease by such entity of an over-the-road bus which does not comply with the regulations issued under section 12186 of this title and

any other failure of such entity to comply with such regulations and

Historical or antiquated cars



which is not less than 30 years old at the time of its use for transporting individuals

Ada Title Iv: Telecommunications Relay Services

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Title IV addresses telephone and television access for people with hearing and speech disabilities. It requires common carriers to establish interstate and intrastate telecommunications relay services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. TRS enables callers with hearing and speech disabilities who use TTYs , and callers who use voice telephones to communicate with each other through a third party communications assistant. The Federal Communications Commission has set minimum standards for TRS services. Title IV also requires closed captioning of Federally funded public service announcements. For more information about TRS, contact the FCC at:

Federal Communications Commission445 12th Street, S.W.Washington, D.C. 20554 225-5322 835-5322

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Who Pays For Reasonable Accommodations Or Modifications

Landlords are responsible for paying for the accommodations to make a property ADA compliant. However, renters may be financially responsible for paying for structural modifications. The exception to this is if the rental is listed as a federally assisted housing structure. Landlords may also request that renters remove the modifications from the unit at the time of vacating, such as wall mounts or handlebars.

Protecting Your Adult Child With A Disability: Other Legal And Safety Considerations

  • Respect the law. Disabled tenants rights vary, sometimes drastically, . Know the rules of your local government because they protect landlords too. An example of a common tenant right that varies by state is right of access by the landlord and reasonable notice for entry. In Florida, for example, law specifies that a landlord must provide at least 12 hours notice to a tenant before entering their apartment. In Georgia, however, no set amount of hours are specified by law. In both states, landlords are not granted unreasonable access .

  • Ask for a key. However, dont expect that youll get one, and be prepared to answer to the landlord if you duplicate a key despite the lease terms. Its best to negotiate an extra key before you sign the lease.

  • Understand co-signing. Again, tenants rights vary by state, so naturally, potential lease terms will vary as well. Co-signing not necessarily equal tenancy according to lease terms therefore, a co-signer would not automatically gain the right to enter an apartment. In most cases, however, you can coordinate a wellness check with a landlord in the event of an emergency.

  • Explore the need for guardianship. This legal order has pros and cons. On one hand, complete or limited guardianship of a person with special needs could protect them in situations where they are being exploited on the other hand, exercised guardianship could push him or her way.

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Whats Considered A Disability

A disability is an impairment that limits one or more major life activities. This applies if you have a disability that impacts your mobility, hearing, or vision. People with severe mental health conditions also qualify for disabled renters rights. Severe mental health conditions include anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Other conditions that qualify include HIV, AIDS, and developmental disabilities.

The Question In Ada Cases Is Often Whether Or Not Your Facilities Are A Place Of Public Accommodation


The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination. . . on the basis of disability and the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases, or operates a place of public accommodation. 42 U.S.C.A. 12182.

While the Courts interpreting this statute have uniformly held that residential apartments, condominiums, and mobile homes, are not places of public accommodation, and therefore do not have to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act , leasing offices and sales offices and common areas are considered public accommodations within the meaning of this law.

The definition of public accommodation is such that its operations affect commerce if it falls within at least one of twelve descriptive categories. While none of the twelve descriptive categories include a specific reference to a leasing or sales office, the Courts have accepted the concept that a leasing office or sales office is sufficiently close enough to a hotel, motel or other places of lodging , that it is consistent with Congress legislative intent to extend the coverage of the Act to sales or leasing offices.

This area of the law is complex and should be navigated with experienced counsel.

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