Finding the perfect apartment under normal circumstances is challenging. But, people with disabilities have additional blockers when finding a unit that fits their wants and needs.
People with disabilities must have reasonable public accommodations to perform essential job functions and access commercial facilities. According to the United States government, they should also have the opportunity to conduct regular day-to-day activities.
Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), renters with disabilities have the right to access reasonable accommodations when renting an apartment. The disabilities act, a nationwide system, prohibits discrimination and guarantees equal opportunity.
Understanding your rights can help you find a suitable unit and protect yourself. Here's what you need to know about ADA compliance before you sign your next lease.
In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act became a federal law under the Civil Rights Act. The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities based on race, color, sex, national origin, age and religion.
It works together with other laws under the federal government, like the Fair Housing Act and the Rehabilitation act.
Some common disabilities include (but are not limited to):
The act "prohibits discrimination against people with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities." State and local governments must comply to keep all businesses and entities in compliance.
Title I focuses on employment opportunities and prohibits employment agencies and private employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against qualified job applicants and individuals with disabilities. This includes hiring, job training and other employment practices.
It also requires that employers and labor unions make reasonable accommodations for any individuals with disabilities during their employment and are forbidden from asking questions about the disability. This includes employment discrimination of qualified applicants with disabilities.
Regardless if they receive federal financial assistance, state and local governments must provide people with disabilities equal opportunity in government services and programs.
State and local governments must also provide access and reasonable modifications to existing buildings and new construction. Title II also requires that local government entities communicate effectively to people with disabilities to avoid undue hardship.
This may include public accommodations for those with mental limitations or a sign language interpreter when needed for speech disabilities. They must modify their properties to meet current ADA regulations, updated in 2010.
Another part of Title II requires that city buses, subways, trains and other public transportation make good faith efforts to provide reasonable accommodation, including technical assistance.
Under Title III, privately-owned businesses and nonprofit services must provide public accommodations at restaurants, retail stores, movie theaters, commercial facilities, private schools and other public entities.
Public accommodation should also be made for educational courses, employment agencies and medical examinations. Under Title III, state and local government services must also comply with the ADA standards for accessibility.
Under Title IV, telephone and internet companies must establish intrastate telecommunications relay services 24/7 to allow callers with hearing and speech disabilities to use TTY communication (text telephones). Internet and telecommunication companies must provide close-captioning for public service announcements.
Federal financial assistance exists for renters with disabilities who may need assistance covering their rent or any modifications needed for their units. Federal agencies have local government programs in place for qualified individuals with disabilities.
The Supportive Housing for People with Disabilities Program is a federal agency program that offers subsidized rental options for low-income adults with physical disabilities.
Other federal agencies and nonprofits offer qualified individuals support through rent vouchers, resources to find handicap apartments and to make sure to file the proper paperwork with the federal government.
It's important to know that your landlord cannot ask for any details about your disability or how it impacts a significant life activity. They can ask for more information to provide reasonable modifications or accommodations if the need isn't obvious.
Depending on the accommodations and modifications, they may fall on the landlord, the renter or both. While you and the landlord should follow the ADA guidelines, check additional state and local government laws for additional protections.
A reasonable modification or accommodation is an adjustment to the unit that will allow individuals with disabilities equal access to use and live in the apartment. It's important that you advocate for what you need before signing the lease.
If you need a modification that falls under the ADA guidelines, your landlord must comply and pay for the cost.
A public accommodation may look like bright lights for the visually impaired, wheelchair access and lower countertops, visual fire and carbon monoxide alarms for those with hearing and speech disabilities, ramp access or allowing service animals in a no pets building.
If modifications are outside the ADA guidelines, the landlord may ask you to split the cost. If so, revise the lease to include the cost of modifications and a set timeline for their completion.
It should also include if you're responsible for returning the apartment back to its original state when you move out. Under the Fair Housing Act, property managers must treat you like any other renter, and they can't deny you an apartment based on your disability.
Be upfront and know your rights once you start your ADA-compliant apartment search. Talk to your potential landlord about the reasonable changes you need and get any revisions to your lease in writing before signing.
If there's a breach in compliance, make sure to document everything and report any discrimination to your state and local government.