Fair Housing Act (FHA)
SIGNED BY: Lyndon Johnson (FHA), Ronald Reagan (FHAA)
SIGNED ON: 1968 (FHA); September 13, 1988 (FHAA)
SIGNIFICANCE: The original Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, and national origin. Discrimination based on sex was added in 1974. When the law was amended in 1988, an important change was to forbid discrimination against people because of disability.
As amended in 1988 by the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA), the Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibits discrimination based on disability in the context of housing. The FHA regulates activities such as renting or buying a home, getting a mortgage, and seeking housing assistance. The FHAA also requires that housing providers make reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications in order to allow people with disabilities to enjoy their housing—and so they can use it safely.
The FHA covers almost all housing, public and private.
Design and Construction Accessibility Requirements
The FHA’s design and construction accessibility requirements apply to “covered multifamily housing.” This sort of multifamily housing is any of the following:
- Housing designed and constructed for first occupancy after March 13, 1991.
- All dwelling units in buildings containing four or more units, with an elevator.
- All ground floor units in buildings containing four or more units, without an elevator.
To comply with the FHA, seven basic design and construction requirements must be met. In brief, these are:
- An accessible entrance on an accessible route
- Accessible public and common use areas
- Usable doors
- An accessible route into and through the dwelling unit
- Environmental controls in accessible locations. One example is light switches.
- Reinforced walls in bathrooms for later installation of grab bars
- Usable kitchens and bathrooms
More about the FHA
The Fair Housing Act is enforced administratively by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). If you believe that you’ve been harmed by a violation of the FHA, you may file an administrative complaint with HUD. HUD will conduct an impartial investigation.
Although the FHA and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) both concern people who have disabilities, the specifics of the rules are rather different. For help with the FHA, the Northeast ADA Center recommends these resources:
- For general information, consult Housing Discrimination under the Fair Housing Act, which is made available by HUD.
- To learn about FHA design and construction requirements, visit the website for Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST. This organization is an initiative sponsored by HUD. Its purpose is to promote compliance with the FHA’s design and construction requirements. Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST offers helpful materials on its website as well as a telephone hotline. The hotline number is 888-341-7781. You can also submit questions using a form on the website.
- To locate fair housing resources by state, see HUD Exchange, Fair Housing Organizations page. You can find fair housing organizations and other non-profits that receive funding through the Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP). FHIP eliminates housing discrimination by enforcing fair housing laws and educating individuals about fair housing laws.