Know Your Housing Rights
By DRC-NH staff
In both private and public housing, federal and state laws protect the rights of people with disabilities. Those laws apply to a variety of housing providers including landlords, property managers, homeowners’ associations, and condo boards.
Prohibited: Discrimination against people with disabilities is against the law. It is unlawful for a housing provider to refuse to rent or sell to a person simply because of a disability. A housing provider may not impose different application or qualification criteria, rental fees or sales prices, or rental/sales terms or conditions than those required of, or provided to, persons who are not disabled. It is also unlawful for a housing provider to ask questions that would require a person to disclose that they have a disability.
Example: A housing provider may not refuse to rent to an otherwise qualified individual with a mental disability because they are uncomfortable with the individual’s disability. Such an act would violate both federal and state fair housing laws because it denies a
person housing solely based on their disability.
Required: Housing providers must make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. A reasonable accommodation is a change in rules, policies, practices,
or services so that a person with a disability will have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling unit or common space. A housing provider should do everything they can to assist, but they are not required to make changes that would fundamentally alter the program or cost more money than the housing provider can afford. Reasonable accommodations may be requested at all stages of the housing process including application, tenancy, or to prevent eviction.
Example: A reasonable accommodation for a tenant with a mobility impairment would be for the landlord to provide a reserved parking space in front of the entrance to the unit, even though all other parking provided by the landlord is unreserved.
Example: A fundamental alteration to a program would be asking that the landlord provide a service they don’t provide like plowing or reserved parking when no parking spots are provided at all (reserved or otherwise).
Example: Covered housing providers must allow service animals and emotional support animals when it is necessary due to the resident’s disability, even if the housing provider does not normally allow pets.
Required: Housing providers must allow a person with a disability to make reasonable modifications. A reasonable modification is a structural modification that is made to allow people with disabilities the full enjoyment of the housing and related facilities. Reasonable modifications are usually made at the expense of the person with a disability. There are resources available to help fund building modifications. Additionally, if you live in federally assisted housing the housing provider may be required to pay for the modification if it does not amount to an undue financial or administrative burden.
Exceptions to state and federal law
Some housing is exempted from housing discrimination law.
- Buildings with no more than three or four units – if the owner lives in one of the units.*
- Single family housing that is sold or rented by the owner if the owner does not own more than one such single family home and if the owner does not go through a rental agent.
- Limited exemptions for religious organizations, private clubs, and nonprofit organizations.
- If you feel that your rights, or the rights of someone you know, are being violated based on a disability, you can contact Disability Rights Center-NH at 1-800-228-0432 or the Fair Housing Project at NH Legal Assistance at 1-800-921-1115 for free or low-cost
- For more information on your rights to fair housing, including how to file a complaint and the applicable filing deadlines, you can contact the NH Commission for Human Rights at 603-271-2767, US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Fair Housing Hub, Boston at 1-800-827-5005.
*State and federal law differ on this point. Please consult an attorney for more information.
DRC-NH, in collaboration with the UNH Institute on Disability and the New Hampshire Council on Developmental Disabilities, distribute a quarterly RAP sheet to educate community members and policy makers about the latest research, policy, practice, and advocacy issues affecting individuals with disabilities and their families.