A Fair Housing Defense Blog reader asked me to attempt to unscramble the various statues in play that apartment management professionals must work with.  So, here is a short summary:

Although legislation to specifically combat housing discrimination had been pending in Congress for many years, it took a galvanizing event (the assassination of Martin Luther King) to overcome Senate opposition to the bill.  Congress moved swiftly after Dr. King’s death and passed Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 – which we know today as the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”).  As originally adopted, the FHA prohibited discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin.

Congress initially attempted to combat discrimination against individuals with disabilities at the national level by adopting civil rights legislation prohibiting discrimination by federal employers as well as within programs that receive federal financial assistance.  That law, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“the Rehabilitation Act”), contains what is known in our world as “Section 504” and provides a supplemental basis for ensuring that individuals with disabilities receive the full benefit of their housing and are not discriminated against in federal programs because of their disabilities.  The regulations which implemented Section 504 were amended over time to make clear that housing providers were required to evaluate and respond to reasonable accommodation requests received from disabled residents and applicants.

In 1974, Congress amended the FHA to prohibit gender discrimination.

In 1988, Congress again amended the FHA, this time adding protections for familial status and disability.  As such our current FHA has seven protected classes.  And various state, city, and county fair housing laws often can (and do) include additional protected classes not listed in the federal FHA.

Next, when Congress was drafting the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) in the early 1990’s, the legislators looked to the reasonable accommodation matrix taken from the Rehabilitation Act to design a reasonable accommodation provision within the ADA and to ensure that a failure to reasonably accommodate an individual was included in the definition of discrimination under the ADA.  Indeed, Congress then went back and amended the Rehabilitation Act  to include the same reasonable accommodation standards as they wrote into the ADA.  Now, as a general rule, the ADA does not fully apply to residential apartments communities – except that the leasing office and any retail space leased to vendors on the property must comply with ADA accessibility guidelines.

Hope that helps.  For individual questions dealing with one of these (or other) laws, you might want to speak with a lawyer like me as every case typically involves a fact specific analysis.

Just A Thought.