How do I know if my rental property complies with the Fair Housing Act housing accessibility requirements?

The Fair Housing Act requires all covered multifamily dwellings designed and constructed for first occupancy after March 13, 1991 to be accessible to and usable by people with disabilities. Covered multifamily dwellings are all dwelling units in buildings containing four or more units with one or more elevators, and all ground floor units in buildings containing four or more units, without an elevator.

In order to be in compliance with the Fair Housing Act, there are seven basic design and construction requirements that must be met. These requirements are:

Requirement 1. An accessible building entrance on an accessible route.
All covered multifamily dwellings must have at least one accessible building entrance on an accessible route unless it is impractical to do so because of the terrain or unusual characteristics of the site.

  • An accessible route means a continuous, unobstructed path connecting accessible elements and spaces within a building or site that can be negotiated by a person with a disability who uses a wheelchair, and that is also safe for and usable by people with other disabilities.
  • An accessible entrance is a building entrance connected by an accessible route to public transit stops, accessible parking and passenger loading zones, or public streets and sidewalks.

Requirement 2. Accessible common and public use areas.

Covered housing must have accessible and usable public and common-use areas. Public and common-use areas cover all parts of the housing outside individual units. They include, as examples, parking lots, storage areas, indoor and outdoor recreational areas, lobbies, mailrooms and mailboxes, and laundry areas.

Requirement 3. Usable doors by a person in a wheelchair.

All doors that allow passage into and within all premises must be wide enough to allow passage by persons using wheelchairs.

Requirement 4. Accessible route into and through the dwelling unit.

There must be an accessible route into and through each covered unit.

Requirement 5. Light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls in accessible locations.

Light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls must be in accessible locations.

Requirement 6. Reinforced walls in bathrooms for later installation of grab bars.

Walls in bathrooms must be reinforced so that grab bars near the toilet, tub, shower, and shower seat, if provided, can be added later.

  1. Usable kitchens and bathrooms.

Kitchens and bathrooms must be usable, that is, designed and constructed so an individual in a wheelchair can maneuver in the space provided.

If a housing project receives federal funding, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 has additional requirements in addition to the federal Fair Housing Act accessibility requirements.

You should also research Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements to determine what other requirements may be applicable to your properties.

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