The interplay between the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is one that professional apartment management employees should know about, but the bottom line will usually stay the same. We are mandated by law to work to accommodate our residents and/or applicants with disabilities and to engage in the interactive process to remove barriers as best we can.
The FHA prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of seven protected classes: race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, and disability. States, cities, and counties can (and do) have additional laws which add to the number of protected classes in the federal FHA. Apartment communities are covered by the FHA. While the ADA prohibits discrimination in “public accommodations” based on disability, for the most part, apartment communities are excluded from the definition of “public accommodations.” That being said, the ADA does apply to areas in an apartment community that are open to the public. The most common example of where the ADA applies in an apartment development is the rental office.
Indeed, some states (such as California) have a comprehensive civil rights laws which prohibits discrimination by all business establishments based on a number of protected classes. The business of renting apartment homes has been found to be a business establishment under the California law.
The takeaway for apartment management companies? Engage with your residents. Develop procedures to accept, review, and respond to reasonable accommodation and reasonable modification requests. Or you may find you will need to speak with a lawyer like me.
Just A Thought.