Fair Housing for the disabled and LGBT community
What can a housing provider ask you about your disability?
Once you have asked your housing provider for a reasonable accommodation based on your disability, what kind of verification can the housing provider ask of you, if any?
The Joint Statement of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice provides clarification. If the disability and the need for the reasonable accommodation is obvious then:
A provider is entitled to obtain information that is necessary to evaluate if a requested reasonable accommodation may be necessary because of a disability. If a person’s disability is obvious, or otherwise known to the provider, and if the need for the requested accommodation is also readily apparent or known, then the provider may not request any additional information about the requester’s disability or the disability-related need for the accommodation.
Example: An applicant with an obvious mobility impairment who regularly uses a walker to move around asks her housing provider to assign her a parking space near the entrance to the building instead of a space located in another part of the parking lot. Since the physical disability (i.e., difficulty walking) and the disability- related need for the requested accommodation are both readily apparent, the provider may not require the applicant to provide any additional information about her disability or the need for the requested accommodation.
If the disability is obvious, but the need for the reasonable accommodation is not then:
If the requester’s disability is known or readily apparent to the provider, but the need for the accommodation is not readily apparent or known, the provider may request only information that is necessary to evaluate the disability-related need for the accommodation.
Example: A blind tenant was living in a one-bedroom apartment. He requested to be moved to a two-bedroom apartment for his disability. The housing provider requested verification that the two-bedroom apartment was needed for the tenant’s disability. The tenant’s doctor wrote a letter to the housing provider stating that the tenant required a live-in able to ask for verification for the reasonable accommodation request because needing a two-bedroom apartment was not obvious. The doctor’s letter explained why the tenant needed a two-bedroom apartment, so the reasonable accommodation has been sufficiently verified.
If the disability and the need for the reasonable accommodation are both not obvious then:
Housing provider may request reliable disability-related information that (1) is necessary to verify that the person meets the Act’s definition of disability (i.e., has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities), (2) describes the needed accommodation, and (3) shows the relationship between the person’s disability and the need for the requested accommodation.4
Who is considered a third party in the position to know?
The verification in most cases comes from a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, or other medical professional. However, the Fair Housing Act allows anyone who is in the position to know about the individual’s disability to provide verification. It could be a peer support group leader, non-medical service agency, a parent, or family member. It does not even have to a person in some cases, it could be “proof that an individual under 65 years of age receives Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.”
LGBT and Fair Housing - A Patchwork of Unequal Protection
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision ruled a fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples. However, the right of same sex-couples to rent or purchase a home is not a specific right protected under federal law.
However, California specifically bans housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. If you believe you have been a victim of housing discrimination, contact the City of San Diego’s Fair Housing Hotline, administered by the Fair Housing Center of the Legal Aid Society of San Diego Inc., at 844-449- 3500
The federal Fair Housing Act, bans discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, familial status, gender, and disability, but does not specifically include sexual orientation and gender identity/expression as prohibited bases. Recently, voters in the city of Houston rejected the
Houston Equal Rights Ordinance that would have banned housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. Against this backdrop, a recent study demonstrated that same-sex couples experience less favorable treatment than heterosexual couples in the online rental housing market.
While the federal government bans housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity only in government operated housing, states and cities across of the country have had to enact specific laws that ban housing discrimination against LGBT persons because the federal Fair Housing Act does not grant specific protections to LGBT persons. Only 21 states, which include California, have a law that bans housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Only 17 states ban housing discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression. This fact means LGBT persons are not protected against housing discrimination in many states and could face lawful discrimination from a landlord who refuses to rent an apartment to gay, lesbian, or transgender persons. Currently, a same-sex couple can marry but can still be denied the opportunity to purchase or rent a home together because of the unequal protection of fair housing rights for LGBT persons under federal law.
For More Information please call The Legal Aid Society of San Diego, Inc. (844) 449-3500 or 1-877-734-2929 TTY or visit www.lassd.org.