U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
OFFICE OF FAIR HOUSING AND EQUAL OPPORTUNITY
May 14, 2004
JOINT STATEMENT OF
THE DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
AND THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS UNDER THE
FAIR HOUSING ACT
The Department of Justice ("DOJ") and the Department of Housing and Urban
Development ("HUD") are jointly responsible for enforcing the federal Fair Housing Act (1) (the
"Act"), which prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex,
national origin, familial status, and disability. (2) One type of disability discrimination prohibited
by the Act is the refusal to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or
services when such accommodations may be necessary to afford a person with a disability the
equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. (3) HUD and DOJ frequently respond to complaints
alleging that housing providers have violated the Act by refusing reasonable accommodations to
persons with disabilities. This Statement provides technical assistance regarding the rights and
obligations of persons with disabilities and housing providers under the Act relating to
reasonable accommodations. (4)
Questions and Answers
1. What types of discrimination against persons with disabilities does the Act prohibit?
The Act prohibits housing providers from discriminating against applicants or residents
because of their disability or the disability of anyone associated with them (5) and from treating
persons with disabilities less favorably than others because of their disability. The Act also
makes it unlawful for any person to refuse "to make reasonable accommodations in rules,
policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford ...
person(s) [with disabilities] equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling." (6) The Act also
prohibits housing providers from refusing residency to persons with disabilities, or placing
conditions on their residency, because those persons may require reasonable accommodations.
In addition, in certain circumstances, the Act requires that housing providers allow residents to
make reasonable structural modifications to units and public/common areas in a dwelling when
those modifications may be necessary for a person with a disability to have full enjoyment of a
dwelling. (7) With certain limited exceptions (see response to question 2 below), the Act applies
to privately and publicly owned housing, including housing subsidized by the federal
government or rented through the use of Section 8 voucher assistance.
2. Who must comply with the Fair Housing Act's reasonable accommodation
Any person or entity engaging in prohibited conduct - i.e., refusing to make reasonable
accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be
necessary to afford a person with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling -
may be held liable unless they fall within an exception to the Act's coverage. Courts have
applied the Act to individuals, corporations, associations and others involved in the provision of
housing and residential lending, including property owners, housing managers, homeowners and
condominium associations, lenders, real estate agents, and brokerage services. Courts have also
applied the Act to state and local governments, most often in the context of exclusionary zoning
or other land-use decisions. See e.g., City of Edmonds v. Oxford House, Inc., 514 U.S. 725, 729
(1995); Project Life v. Glendening, 139 F. Supp. 703, 710 (D. Md. 2001), aff'd 2002 WL
2012545 (4th Cir. 2002). Under specific exceptions to the Fair Housing Act, the reasonable
accommodation requirements of the Act do not apply to a private individual owner who sells his
own home so long as he (1) does not own more than three single-family homes; (2) does not use
a real estate agent and does not employ any discriminatory advertising or notices; (3) has not
engaged in a similar sale of a home within a 24-month period; and (4) is not in the business of
selling or renting dwellings. The reasonable accommodation requirements of the Fair Housing
Act also do not apply to owner-occupied buildings that have four or fewer dwelling units.
3. Who qualifies as a person with a disability under the Act?
The Act defines a person with a disability to include (1) individuals with a physical or
mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; (2) individuals who
are regarded as having such an impairment; and (3) individuals with a record of such an
The term "physical or mental impairment" includes, but is not limited to, such diseases
and conditions as orthopedic, visual, speech and hearing impairments, cerebral palsy, autism,
epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Human
Immunodeficiency Virus infection, mental retardation, emotional illness, drug addiction (other
than addiction caused by current, illegal use of a controlled substance) and alcoholism.
The term "substantially limits" suggests that the limitation is "significant" or "to a large
The term "major life activity" means those activities that are of central importance to
daily life, such as seeing, hearing, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, caring for one's
self, learning, and speaking. (8) This list of major life activities is not exhaustive. See e.g., Bragdon
v. Abbott, 524 U.S. 624, 691-92 (1998)(holding that for certain individuals reproduction is a
major life activity).
4. Does the Act protect juvenile offenders, sex offenders, persons who illegally use
controlled substances, and persons with disabilities who pose a significant danger to
No, juvenile offenders and sex offenders, by virtue of that status, are not persons with
disabilities protected by the Act. Similarly, while the Act does protect persons who are
recovering from substance abuse, it does not protect persons who are currently engaging in the
current illegal use of controlled substances. (9)
Additionally, the Act does not protect an individual
with a disability whose tenancy would constitute a "direct threat" to the health or safety of other
individuals or result in substantial physical damage to the property of others unless the threat can
be eliminated or significantly reduced by reasonable accommodation.
5. How can a housing provider determine if an individual poses a direct threat?
The Act does not allow for exclusion of individuals based upon fear, speculation, or
stereotype about a particular disability or persons with disabilities in general. A determination
that an individual poses a direct threat must rely on an individualized assessment that is based on
reliable objective evidence (e.g., current conduct, or a recent history of overt acts). The
assessment must consider: (1) the nature, duration, and severity of the risk of injury; (2) the
probability that injury will actually occur; and (3) whether there are any reasonable
accommodations that will eliminate the direct threat. Consequently, in evaluating a recent
history of overt acts, a provider must take into account whether the individual has received
intervening treatment or medication that has eliminated the direct threat (i.e., a significant risk of
substantial harm). In such a situation, the provider may request that the individual document
how the circumstances have changed so that he no longer poses a direct threat. A provider may
also obtain satisfactory assurances that the individual will not pose a direct threat during the
tenancy. The housing provider must have reliable, objective evidence that a person with a
disability poses a direct threat before excluding him from housing on that basis.
Example 1: A housing provider requires all persons applying to rent an
apartment to complete an application that includes information on the applicant's
current place of residence. On her application to rent an apartment, a woman
notes that she currently resides in Cambridge House. The manager of the
apartment complex knows that Cambridge House is a group home for women
receiving treatment for alcoholism. Based solely on that information and his
personal belief that alcoholics are likely to cause disturbances and damage
property, the manager rejects the applicant. The rejection is unlawful because it
is based on a generalized stereotype related to a disability rather than an
individualized assessment of any threat to other persons or the property of others
based on reliable, objective evidence about the applicant's recent past conduct.
The housing provider may not treat this applicant differently than other applicants
based on his subjective perceptions of the potential problems posed by her
alcoholism by requiring additional documents, imposing different lease terms, or
requiring a higher security deposit. However, the manager could have checked
this applicant's references to the same extent and in the same manner as he would
have checked any other applicant's references. If such a reference check revealed
objective evidence showing that this applicant had posed a direct threat to persons
or property in the recent past and the direct threat had not been eliminated, the
manager could then have rejected the applicant based on direct threat.
Example 2: James X, a tenant at the Shady Oaks apartment complex, is
arrested for threatening his neighbor while brandishing a baseball bat. The Shady
Oaks' lease agreement contains a term prohibiting tenants from threatening
violence against other residents. Shady Oaks' rental manager investigates the
incident and learns that James X threatened the other resident with physical
violence and had to be physically restrained by other neighbors to keep him from
acting on his threat. Following Shady Oaks' standard practice of strictly
enforcing its "no threats" policy, the Shady Oaks rental manager issues James X a
30-day notice to quit, which is the first step in the eviction process. James X's
attorney contacts Shady Oaks' rental manager and explains that James X has a
psychiatric disability that causes him to be physically violent when he stops
taking his prescribed medication. Suggesting that his client will not pose a direct
threat to others if proper safeguards are taken, the attorney requests that the rental
manager grant James X an exception to the "no threats" policy as a reasonable
accommodation based on James X's disability. The Shady Oaks rental manager
need only grant the reasonable accommodation if James X's attorney can provide
satisfactory assurance that James X will receive appropriate counseling and
periodic medication monitoring so that he will no longer pose a direct threat
during his tenancy. After consulting with James X, the attorney responds that
James X is unwilling to receive counseling or submit to any type of periodic
monitoring to ensure that he takes his prescribed medication. The rental manager
may go forward with the eviction proceeding, since James X continues to pose a
direct threat to the health or safety of other residents.
6. What is a "reasonable accommodation" for purposes of the Act?
A "reasonable accommodation" is a change, exception, or adjustment to a rule, policy,
practice, or service that may be necessary for a person with a disability to have an equal
opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, including public and common use spaces. Since rules,
policies, practices, and services may have a different effect on persons with disabilities than on
other persons, treating persons with disabilities exactly the same as others will sometimes deny
them an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. The Act makes it unlawful to refuse to
make reasonable accommodations to rules, policies, practices, or services when such
accommodations may be necessary to afford persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to use
and enjoy a dwelling.
To show that a requested accommodation may be necessary, there must be an identifiable
relationship, or nexus, between the requested accommodation and the individual's disability.
Example 1: A housing provider has a policy of providing unassigned parking
spaces to residents. A resident with a mobility impairment, who is substantially
limited in her ability to walk, requests an assigned accessible parking space close
to the entrance to her unit as a reasonable accommodation. There are available
parking spaces near the entrance to her unit that are accessible, but those spaces
are available to all residents on a first come, first served basis. The provider must
make an exception to its policy of not providing assigned parking spaces to
accommodate this resident.
Example 2: A housing provider has a policy of requiring tenants to come to the
rental office in person to pay their rent. A tenant has a mental disability that
makes her afraid to leave her unit. Because of her disability, she requests that she
be permitted to have a friend mail her rent payment to the rental office as a
reasonable accommodation. The provider must make an exception to its payment
policy to accommodate this tenant.
Example 3: A housing provider has a "no pets" policy. A tenant who is deaf
requests that the provider allow him to keep a dog in his unit as a reasonable
accommodation. The tenant explains that the dog is an assistance animal that will
alert him to several sounds, including knocks at the door, sounding of the smoke
detector, the telephone ringing, and cars coming into the driveway. The housing
provider must make an exception to its "no pets" policy to accommodate this
7. Are there any instances when a provider can deny a request for a reasonable
accommodation without violating the Act?
Yes. A housing provider can deny a request for a reasonable accommodation if the
request was not made by or on behalf of a person with a disability or if there is no disability-related need for the accommodation. In addition, a request for a reasonable accommodation may
be denied if providing the accommodation is not reasonable - i.e., if it would impose an undue
financial and administrative burden on the housing provider or it would fundamentally alter the
nature of the provider's operations. The determination of undue financial and administrative
burden must be made on a case-by-case basis involving various factors, such as the cost of the
requested accommodation, the financial resources of the provider, the benefits that the
accommodation would provide to the requester, and the availability of alternative
accommodations that would effectively meet the requester's disability-related needs.
When a housing provider refuses a requested accommodation because it is not
reasonable, the provider should discuss with the requester whether there is an alternative
accommodation that would effectively address the requester's disability-related needs without a
fundamental alteration to the provider's operations and without imposing an undue financial and
administrative burden. If an alternative accommodation would effectively meet the requester's
disability-related needs and is reasonable, the provider must grant it. An interactive process in
which the housing provider and the requester discuss the requester's disability-related need for
the requested accommodation and possible alternative accommodations is helpful to all
concerned because it often results in an effective accommodation for the requester that does not
pose an undue financial and administrative burden for the provider.
Example: As a result of a disability, a tenant is physically unable to open the
dumpster placed in the parking lot by his housing provider for trash collection.
The tenant requests that the housing provider send a maintenance staff person to
his apartment on a daily basis to collect his trash and take it to the dumpster.
Because the housing development is a small operation with limited financial
resources and the maintenance staff are on site only twice per week, it may be an
undue financial and administrative burden for the housing provider to grant the
requested daily trash pick-up service. Accordingly, the requested accommodation
may not be reasonable. If the housing provider denies the requested
accommodation as unreasonable, the housing provider should discuss with the
tenant whether reasonable accommodations could be provided to meet the tenant's
disability-related needs - for instance, placing an open trash collection can in a
location that is readily accessible to the tenant so the tenant can dispose of his
own trash and the provider's maintenance staff can then transfer the trash to the
dumpster when they are on site. Such an accommodation would not involve a
fundamental alteration of the provider's operations and would involve little
financial and administrative burden for the provider while accommodating the
tenant's disability-related needs.
There may be instances where a provider believes that, while the accommodation
requested by an individual is reasonable, there is an alternative accommodation that would be
equally effective in meeting the individual's disability-related needs. In such a circumstance, the
provider should discuss with the individual if she is willing to accept the alternative
accommodation. However, providers should be aware that persons with disabilities typically
have the most accurate knowledge about the functional limitations posed by their disability, and
an individual is not obligated to accept an alternative accommodation suggested by the provider
if she believes it will not meet her needs and her preferred accommodation is reasonable.
8. What is a "fundamental alteration"?
A "fundamental alteration" is a modification that alters the essential nature of a provider's
Example: A tenant has a severe mobility impairment that substantially limits his
ability to walk. He asks his housing provider to transport him to the grocery store
and assist him with his grocery shopping as a reasonable accommodation to his
disability. The provider does not provide any transportation or shopping services
for its tenants, so granting this request would require a fundamental alteration in
the nature of the provider's operations. The request can be denied, but the
provider should discuss with the requester whether there is any alternative
accommodation that would effectively meet the requester's disability-related
needs without fundamentally altering the nature of its operations, such as
reducing the tenant's need to walk long distances by altering its parking policy to
allow a volunteer from a local community service organization to park her car
close to the tenant's unit so she can transport the tenant to the grocery store and
assist him with his shopping.
9. What happens if providing a requested accommodation involves some costs on
the part of the housing provider?
Courts have ruled that the Act may require a housing provider to grant a reasonable
accommodation that involves costs, so long as the reasonable accommodation does not pose an
undue financial and administrative burden and the requested accommodation does not constitute
a fundamental alteration of the provider's operations. The financial resources of the provider,
the cost of the reasonable accommodation, the benefits to the requester of the requested
accommodation, and the availability of other, less expensive alternative accommodations that
would effectively meet the applicant or resident's disability-related needs must be considered in
determining whether a requested accommodation poses an undue financial and administrative
10. What happens if no agreement can be reached through the interactive process?
A failure to reach an agreement on an accommodation request is in effect a decision by
the provider not to grant the requested accommodation. If the individual who was denied an
accommodation files a Fair Housing Act complaint to challenge that decision, then the agency or
court receiving the complaint will review the evidence in light of applicable law and decide if
the housing provider violated that law. For more information about the complaint process, see
question 19 below.
11. May a housing provider charge an extra fee or require an additional deposit
from applicants or residents with disabilities as a condition of granting a reasonable
No. Housing providers may not require persons with disabilities to pay extra fees or
deposits as a condition of receiving a reasonable accommodation.
Example 1: A man who is substantially limited in his ability to walk uses a
motorized scooter for mobility purposes. He applies to live in an assisted living
facility that has a policy prohibiting the use of motorized vehicles in buildings
and elsewhere on the premises. It would be a reasonable accommodation for the
facility to make an exception to this policy to permit the man to use his motorized
scooter on the premises for mobility purposes. Since allowing the man to use his
scooter in the buildings and elsewhere on the premises is a reasonable
accommodation, the facility may not condition his use of the scooter on payment
of a fee or deposit or on a requirement that he obtain liability insurance relating to
the use of the scooter. However, since the Fair Housing Act does not protect any
person with a disability who poses a direct threat to the person or property of
others, the man must operate his motorized scooter in a responsible manner that
does not pose a significant risk to the safety of other persons and does not cause
damage to other persons' property. If the individual's use of the scooter causes
damage to his unit or the common areas, the housing provider may charge him for
the cost of repairing the damage (or deduct it from the standard security deposit
imposed on all tenants), if it is the provider's practice to assess tenants for any
damage they cause to the premises.
Example 2: Because of his disability, an applicant with a hearing impairment
needs to keep an assistance animal in his unit as a reasonable accommodation.
The housing provider may not require the applicant to pay a fee or a security
deposit as a condition of allowing the applicant to keep the assistance animal.
However, if a tenant's assistance animal causes damage to the applicant's unit or
the common areas of the dwelling, the housing provider may charge the tenant for
the cost of repairing the damage (or deduct it from the standard security deposit
imposed on all tenants), if it is the provider's practice to assess tenants for any
damage they cause to the premises.
12. When and how should an individual request an accommodation?
Under the Act, a resident or an applicant for housing makes a reasonable accommodation
request whenever she makes clear to the housing provider that she is requesting an exception,
change, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service because of her disability. She should
explain what type of accommodation she is requesting and, if the need for the accommodation is
not readily apparent or not known to the provider, explain the relationship between the requested
accommodation and her disability.
An applicant or resident is not entitled to receive a reasonable accommodation unless she
requests one. However, the Fair Housing Act does not require that a request be made in a
particular manner or at a particular time. A person with a disability need not personally make
the reasonable accommodation request; the request can be made by a family member or someone
else who is acting on her behalf. An individual making a reasonable accommodation request
does not need to mention the Act or use the words "reasonable accommodation." However, the
requester must make the request in a manner that a reasonable person would understand to be a
request for an exception, change, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service because of a
Although a reasonable accommodation request can be made orally or in writing, it is
usually helpful for both the resident and the housing provider if the request is made in writing.
This will help prevent misunderstandings regarding what is being requested, or whether the
request was made. To facilitate the processing and consideration of the request, residents or
prospective residents may wish to check with a housing provider in advance to determine if the
provider has a preference regarding the manner in which the request is made. However, housing
providers must give appropriate consideration to reasonable accommodation requests even if the
requester makes the request orally or does not use the provider's preferred forms or procedures
for making such requests.
Example: A tenant in a large apartment building makes an oral request that she
be assigned a mailbox in a location that she can easily access because of a
physical disability that limits her ability to reach and bend. The provider would
prefer that the tenant make the accommodation request on a pre-printed form, but
the tenant fails to complete the form. The provider must consider the reasonable
accommodation request even though the tenant would not use the provider's
13. Must a housing provider adopt formal procedures for processing requests for a
No. The Act does not require that a housing provider adopt any formal procedures for
reasonable accommodation requests. However, having formal procedures may aid individuals
with disabilities in making requests for reasonable accommodations and may aid housing
providers in assessing those requests so that there are no misunderstandings as to the nature of
the request, and, in the event of later disputes, provide records to show that the requests received
A provider may not refuse a request, however, because the individual making the request
did not follow any formal procedures that the provider has adopted. If a provider adopts formal
procedures for processing reasonable accommodation requests, the provider should ensure that
the procedures, including any forms used, do not seek information that is not necessary to
evaluate if a reasonable accommodation may be needed to afford a person with a disability equal
opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. See Questions 16 - 18, which discuss the disability-related information that a provider may and may not request for the purposes of evaluating a
reasonable accommodation request.
14. Is a housing provider obligated to provide a reasonable accommodation to a
resident or applicant if an accommodation has not been requested?
No. A housing provider is only obligated to provide a reasonable accommodation to a
resident or applicant if a request for the accommodation has been made. A provider has notice
that a reasonable accommodation request has been made if a person, her family member, or
someone acting on her behalf requests a change, exception, or adjustment to a rule, policy,
practice, or service because of a disability, even if the words "reasonable accommodation" are
not used as part of the request.
15. What if a housing provider fails to act promptly on a reasonable
A provider has an obligation to provide prompt responses to reasonable accommodation
requests. An undue delay in responding to a reasonable accommodation request may be deemed
to be a failure to provide a reasonable accommodation.
16. What inquiries, if any, may a housing provider make of current or potential
residents regarding the existence of a disability when they have not asked for an
Under the Fair Housing Act, it is usually unlawful for a housing provider to (1) ask if an
applicant for a dwelling has a disability or if a person intending to reside in a dwelling or anyone
associated with an applicant or resident has a disability, or (2) ask about the nature or severity of
such persons' disabilities. Housing providers may, however, make the following inquiries,
provided these inquiries are made of all applicants, including those with and without disabilities:
- An inquiry into an applicant's ability to meet the requirements of tenancy;
- An inquiry to determine if an applicant is a current illegal abuser or addict
of a controlled substance;
- An inquiry to determine if an applicant qualifies for a dwelling legally
available only to persons with a disability or to persons with a particular
type of disability; and
- An inquiry to determine if an applicant qualifies for housing that is legally
available on a priority basis to persons with disabilities or to persons with
a particular disability.
Example 1: A housing provider offers accessible units to persons with
disabilities needing the features of these units on a priority basis. The provider
may ask applicants if they have a disability and if, in light of their disability, they
will benefit from the features of the units. However, the provider may not ask
applicants if they have other types of physical or mental impairments. If the
applicant's disability and the need for the accessible features are not readily
apparent, the provider may request reliable information/documentation of the
disability-related need for an accessible unit.
Example 2: A housing provider operates housing that is legally limited to
persons with chronic mental illness. The provider may ask applicants for
information needed to determine if they have a mental disability that would
qualify them for the housing. However, in this circumstance, the provider may
not ask applicants if they have other types of physical or mental impairments. If
it is not readily apparent that an applicant has a chronic mental disability, the
provider may request reliable information/documentation of the mental disability
needed to qualify for the housing.
In some instances, a provider may also request certain information about an applicant's or
a resident's disability if the applicant or resident requests a reasonable accommodation. See
Questions 17 and 18 below.
17. What kinds of information, if any, may a housing provider request from a
person with an obvious or known disability who is requesting a reasonable
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.
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 1: 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.
Example 2: A rental applicant who uses a wheelchair advises a housing provider
that he wishes to keep an assistance dog in his unit even though the provider has a
"no pets" policy. The applicant's disability is readily apparent but the need for an
assistance animal is not obvious to the provider. The housing provider may ask
the applicant to provide information about the disability-related need for the dog.
Example 3: An applicant with an obvious vision impairment requests that the
leasing agent provide assistance to her in filling out the rental application form as
a reasonable accommodation because of her disability. The housing provider may
not require the applicant to document the existence of her vision impairment.
18. If a disability is not obvious, what kinds of information may a housing provider
request from the person with a disability in support of a requested accommodation?
A housing provider may not ordinarily inquire as to the nature and severity of an
individual's disability (see Answer 16, above). However, in response to a request for a
reasonable accommodation, a 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. Depending on the
individual's circumstances, information verifying that the person meets the Act's definition of
disability can usually be provided by the individual himself or herself (e.g., proof that an
individual under 65 years of age receives Supplemental Security Income or Social Security
Disability Insurance benefits (10)
or a credible statement by the individual). A doctor or other
medical professional, a peer support group, a non-medical service agency, or a reliable third
party who is in a position to know about the individual's disability may also provide verification
of a disability. In most cases, an individual's medical records or detailed information about the
nature of a person's disability is not necessary for this inquiry.
Once a housing provider has established that a person meets the Act's definition of
disability, the provider's request for documentation should seek only the information that is
necessary to evaluate if the reasonable accommodation is needed because of a disability. Such
information must be kept confidential and must not be shared with other persons unless they
need the information to make or assess a decision to grant or deny a reasonable accommodation
request or unless disclosure is required by law (e.g., a court-issued subpoena requiring
19. If a person believes she has been unlawfully denied a reasonable
accommodation, what should that person do if she wishes to challenge that denial under
When a person with a disability believes that she has been subjected to a discriminatory
housing practice, including a provider's wrongful denial of a request for reasonable
accommodation, she may file a complaint with HUD within one year after the alleged denial or
may file a lawsuit in federal district court within two years of the alleged denial. If a complaint
is filed with HUD, HUD will investigate the complaint at no cost to the person with a disability.
There are several ways that a person may file a complaint with HUD:
- By placing a toll-free call to 1-800-669-9777 or TTY 1-800-927-9275;
- By completing the "on-line" complaint form available on the HUD internet site:
- By mailing a completed complaint form or letter to:
Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity
Department of Housing & Urban Development
451 Seventh Street, S.W., Room 5204
Washington, DC 20410-2000
Upon request, HUD will provide printed materials in alternate formats (large print, audio
tapes, or Braille) and provide complainants with assistance in reading and completing forms.
The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department brings lawsuits in federal courts
across the country to end discriminatory practices and to seek monetary and other relief for
individuals whose rights under the Fair Housing Act have been violated. The Civil Rights
Division initiates lawsuits when it has reason to believe that a person or entity is involved in a
"pattern or practice" of discrimination or when there has been a denial of rights to a group of
persons that raises an issue of general public importance. The Division also participates as
amicus curiae in federal court cases that raise important legal questions involving the application
and/or interpretation of the Act. To alert the Justice Department to matters involving a pattern or
practice of discrimination, matters involving the denial of rights to groups of persons, or lawsuits
raising issues that may be appropriate for amicus participation, contact:
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Housing and Civil Enforcement Section - G St.
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20530
For more information on the types of housing discrimination cases handled by the Civil
Rights Division, please refer to the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section's website at
A HUD or Department of Justice decision not to proceed with a Fair Housing Act matter
does not foreclose private plaintiffs from pursuing a private lawsuit. However, litigation can be
an expensive, time-consuming, and uncertain process for all parties. HUD and the Department
of Justice encourage parties to Fair Housing Act disputes to explore all reasonable alternatives to
litigation, including alternative dispute resolution procedures, such as mediation. HUD attempts
to conciliate all Fair Housing Act complaints. In addition, it is the Department of Justice's policy
to offer prospective defendants the opportunity to engage in pre-suit settlement negotiations,
except in the most unusual circumstances.
1. The Fair Housing Act is codified at 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 - 3619.
2. The Act uses the term "handicap" instead of the term "disability." Both terms have the
same legal meaning. See Bragdon v. Abbott, 524 U.S. 624, 631 (1998) (noting that definition of
"disability" in the Americans with Disabilities Act is drawn almost verbatim "from the definition
of 'handicap' contained in the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988"). This document uses the
term "disability," which is more generally accepted.
3. 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(B).
4. Housing providers that receive federal financial assistance are also subject to the
requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of l973. 29 U.S.C. § 794. Section 504,
and its implementing regulations at 24 C.F.R. Part 8, prohibit discrimination based on disability
and require recipients of federal financial assistance to provide reasonable accommodations to
applicants and residents with disabilities. Although Section 504 imposes greater obligations than
the Fair Housing Act, (e.g., providing and paying for reasonable accommodations that involve
structural modifications to units or public and common areas), the principles discussed in this
Statement regarding reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act generally apply to
requests for reasonable accommodations to rules, policies, practices, and services under Section
504. See U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Public and Indian
Housing, Notice PIH 2002-01(HA) http://www.hud. gov/offices/fheo/disabilities/PIH02-01.pdf and "Section 504: Frequently Asked Questions," (www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/disabilities/sect504faq.cfm#anchor272118)
5. The Fair Housing Act's protection against disability discrimination covers not only home seekers with disabilities but also buyers and renters without disabilities who live or are associated with individuals with disabilities 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(1)(B), 42 U.S.C.
§ 3604(f)(1)(C), 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(2)(B), 42 U.S.C. § (f)(2)(C). See also H.R. Rep. 100-711 -
24 (reprinted in 1988 U.S.C.A.N. 2173, 2184-85) ("The Committee intends these provisions to
prohibit not only discrimination against the primary purchaser or named lessee, but also to
prohibit denials of housing opportunities to applicants because they have children, parents,
friends, spouses, roommates, patients, subtenants or other associates who have disabilities.").
Accord: Preamble to Proposed HUD Rules Implementing the Fair Housing Act, 53 Fed. Reg.
45001 (Nov. 7, 1988) (citing House Report).
6. 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(B). HUD regulations pertaining to reasonable accommodations
may be found at 24 C.F.R. § 100.204.
7. This Statement does not address the principles relating to reasonable modifications. For
further information see the HUD regulations at 24 C.F.R. § 100.203. This statement also does
not address the additional requirements imposed on recipients of Federal financial assistance
pursuant to Section 504, as explained in the Introduction.
8. The Supreme Court has questioned but has not yet ruled on whether "working" is to be
considered a major life activity. See Toyota Motor Mfg, Kentucky, Inc. v. Williams, 122 S. Ct.
681, 692, 693 (2002). If it is a major activity, the Court has noted that a claimant would be
required to show an inability to work in a "broad range of jobs" rather than a specific job. See
Sutton v. United Airlines, Inc., 527 U.S. 470, 492 (1999).
9. See, e.g., United States v. Southern Management Corp., 955 F.2d 914, 919 (4th Cir. 1992)
(discussing exclusion in 42 U.S.C. § 3602(h) for "current, illegal use of or addiction to a
10. Persons who meet the definition of disability for purposes of receiving Supplemental
Security Income ("SSI") or Social Security Disability Insurance ("SSDI") benefits in most cases
meet the definition of disability under the Fair Housing Act, although the converse may not be
true. See e.g., Cleveland v. Policy Management Systems Corp., 526 U.S. 795, 797 (1999)
(noting that SSDI provides benefits to a person with a disability so severe that she is unable to do
her previous work and cannot engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work whereas a
person pursuing an action for disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act
may state a claim that "with a reasonable accommodation" she could perform the essential
functions of the job).