FAIR HOUSING: Questions and Answers

 

Illegal discrimination in the provision of housing occurs millions of times each year in America. Though housing discrimination can cause significant monetary harm and emotional injury to victims, many don’t recognize it when it occurs. And only one in five victims know where to complain.

 

The Fair Housing Act, a federal law, outlaws housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. The Illinois Human Rights Act, a state law, and the Galesburg Human Relations Ordinance, a local law, both outlaw discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, handicap, marital status, age, unfavorable discharge from military service, and ancestry. Additionally, housing discrimination based on Vietnam veteran status is barred by the ordinance in Galesburg, and as of January 1, 2006, the state law bars housing discrimination against persons based on their sexual orientation.

 

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Illinois Department of Human Rights  (IDHR) can investigate, try to settle, or litigate housing discrimination cases at little or no cost to the victim. Victims can receive housing, as well as compensation for their monetary losses or emotional damages suffered due to housing discrimination. More information is at the end of this column.

 

housing discrimination on the basis of race or color

 

THE LAW.  As a general rule, it is unlawful for a provider to discriminate on the basis of your race or color in deciding who to accept for housing, who to negotiate with for a sale or rental, the terms or conditions of the sale or rental, and the privileges, services or facilities to make available in connection with housing.

 

Question: Can a landlord discriminate between two people of the same race or national origin?

 

Answer:  Not on the basis of their “color.”

 

For example, a dark-skinned Latino man made arrangements over the phone to see an apartment.  When the owners saw him in person, it suddenly was not available.  The owners did not discriminate due to national origin, because they had rented to light-skinned Latinos.  But a court held they violated the Fair Housing Act by acting on the basis of “color,” be­cause the man was dark-skinned.

 

 

 

 

Question: Can a housing provider who does not rent to white applicants be illegally discriminating against minorities?

 

Answer: Yes, if it is engaged in racial “steering.”

 

In one case, a development corporation that owned and operated rental units in a minority area of a city referred white applicants to another rental agency in another area of the city.  The corporation invited only black or Latino applicants to complete applications for the units it owned.  This different treatment, known as “steering,”  simply on the basis of skin color or race carries on segregated housing patterns and violates the law.

 

Question: How can I prove a landlord is lying when he says an apartment is unavailable?

 

Answer: Use fair housing agencies and “testers.”

 

When an available apartment suddenly became unavailable after a real estate office manager saw the dark-skinned wife of a Hispanic applicant, he suspected discrimination.  A local fair housing agency sent to the office seven “testers” who posed as prospective tenants.  For each test, one white tester and one black tester visited the office within the same day and inquired about similar apartments, locations, and prices. The pairs were similar in age, income, and family profile, but the black testers said they had slightly higher incomes than their paired white testers.  When all the white testers, but only one black tester, were shown apartments, a court held the real estate office violated the Fair Housing Act.  Call HUD or Prairie State Legal Services for the names and locations of fair housing agencies in your area.

 

Question: Is it legal for a public housing authority to have a rule that has the effect of keeping minorities out?  

 

Answer: Not if the effect is substantial and there is no legitimate business purpose for the rule.

 

Public housing authorities in several predominantly white suburban areas enacted neutral-sounding “local preference” rules to bring their own residents to the front of the line for housing subsidy vouchers.  The rules lead to substantially fewer minorities receiving vouchers than did whites. This “disparate impact” violated the Fair Housing Act. The court rejected the justifications offered for the preferences, namely to lessen certain administrative fees, to help local residents keep living in their communities, and to preserve community morale.

 

 

 

Question: Can a housing provider use racial quotas to maintain an integrated housing community?

 

Answer:  No, quotas are not permitted.

 

An apartment owner designated 75% of the units he rented for white families, 20% for Hispanic families, and 5% for black families. When he was sued under the Fair Housing Act for racial discrimination, he tried to justify the quotas by claiming they were necessary to promote integration and prevent long-term decline in the white population. The court held that while a goal of the Fair Housing Act is the promotion of integrated communities, the more important goal of the act is the elimination of housing discrimination, and the quota was banned.

 

Question:  Does the Fair Housing Act prohibit discriminatory activities related to buying and keeping a house, such as getting insurance or financing?

 

Answer:  Yes.

 

If an insurance provider refuses to do business in certain geographical areas highly segregated by race (known as "redlining"), or otherwise treats minority applicants differently, the provider violates the Fair Housing Act. Homeowner's insurance and financing are virtually always required to buy a house. The Act prohibits discriminatory conduct that makes housing unavailable, in connection with services that facilitate the sale of housing. As a result, the Act bans discrimination by providers of financial assistance and providers of insurance, when buyers seek those services in connection with the purchase of housing.

 

Question: My housing provider is making it more difficult for me to obtain housing by imposing certain obstacles and conditions that he does not impose on white persons.  Is this illegal?

 

Answer: Yes.  It violates the Act for a provider to make housing more difficult to obtain or to discriminate in the terms or conditions of a sale or rental.

 

Some examples of unlawful conduct arise where:

Š        A landlord requires credit checks only of minority applicants

Š       A landlord requires minorities to fill out a longer application

Š       A landlord fails to provide or delays providing minorities with necessary information to apply for a tenancy or a sale

Š       A landlord charges an African-American tenant $100 more than his white tenants

Š       A landlord requires a minority to put down a larger security deposit than the white tenants

Š       A realtor quotes a Muslim family a higher price for a house than he quotes other families, or tells them that the price is firm when it is not firm for others

Š       A landlord evicts a tenant because he has guests who are Hispanic.

 

housing discrimination on the basis of national origin

 

THE LAW.  It is illegal for a housing provider to deal with people from (or with ancestry from) some countries, but not from other countries. National origin refers to a person’s ancestry, and not his citizenship. It can also refer to an ethnic or national group with a common culture or language. It is often treated together with race and color in HUD complaints.

 

Question: Can I prove housing discrimination based on my national origin where the housing provider made statements not to me but to others?  

 

Answer: Yes, if they create a hostile environment that denies housing.

 

A condominium association manager violated the Fair Housing Act by asking the real estate agent representing two couples if the couples were Latino.  The manager stated that the condo was concerned with the problem of overcrowding, and mentioned that Latinos were given to multiplying, that it was feared that they would move in other relatives with them, and that they were not wanted.  He made similar statements to the realtor’s supervisor, but never spoke with the buyers directly.  When the realtor informed the couples of the manager’s statements, they sued the condo association.  In awarding monetary damages to the couples, the court noted that the manager’s remarks clearly caused them severe emotional distress, dashed their dream to improve their life style and caused unfortunate consequences in their future lives.

 

Question:  Do real estate lending efforts specifically targeting Spanish-speaking persons violate the Fair Housing Act?

 

Answer:  Yes, if they lead to unfair loans.

 

Two real estate firms and a lender violated the Fair Housing Act for targeting potential homebuyers who were Spanish speaking and exploiting them financially.  This tactic is known as “reverse redlining.”  They induced Spanish-speaking persons to make home purchases,  then pressured them to make loans at higher amounts than they could afford, and then fraudulently divided the loans into two separate transactions to increase the fees and closing costs. This was done without regard as to whether the borrowers would be able to repay the loans, leading almost all of them to default on the loans.

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Can my landlord ask about my national origin to help him discover any potential terrorists in the building?

 

Answer:  No (although a housing provider can ask about citizenship).

 

A building owner required tenants to identify where they and their spouse were born and to state their citizenship and date of naturalization.  He did this in light of recent terrorist activities in order to make every possible effort to learn whether any of his tenants were foreign nationals.  While the Fair Housing Act allows inquiries about citizenship, it prohibits making any “statement . . . that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on . . .national origin.”   A court prohibited the owner from continuing to make that kind of inquiry.

 

Question: Can a private landlord take into account the worries and concerns of neighbors in restricting the rights of an Arab tenant?

 

Answer:  No.

 

A woman whose national origin was a middle-eastern country was allowed to sue her landlord for violating the Fair Housing Act after she was barred from using the back door to the apartment complex laundry room. To justify the action, the apartment manager cited complaints from other tenants about her foreign ways, including the way she dressed and looked and the fact that her husband was Arabic.  These concerns did not justify the discriminatory treatment.

 

Question: Can a city target its housing code enforcement efforts on minority areas?

 

Answer:  No, where the conduct is based on stereotypes.

 

Driven by complaints from neighbors, a village mounted a campaign of housing code enforcement. When village officials inspected the homes of Latinos and found large numbers of persons present, they assumed code violations existed and automatically issued summonses to appear in court.  The Latino residents were able to explain their circumstances and no code violations were found.  The summonses were later dismissed in court. This conduct, based on stereotyping the lives of Latino families, violated the Fair Housing Act.

 

Question: Can a landlord market its apartments to a group of a specific national origin?

 

Answer:  No.

 

A corporation used the word "Korean" in the names of several of the apartment buildings it owned and showed the South Korean flag in ads for vacancies. This violates the Fair Housing Act. The Act prohibits making or publishing any statement or advertisement with respect to the rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation or discrimination based on national origin. A court held that naming the apartment buildings themselves to contain the national name, "Korean," would cause an ordinary reader to understand that ethnic Koreans, and not others, would be preferred.

 

Question: What relief can I get when a landlord fails to show me available apartments due to my national origin?

 

Answer: Significant compensatory and punitive monetary damages are available.

 

For example, a jury awarded a man of Puerto Rican ancestry $10,000 in compensatory and punitive damages against his real estate agent.  The agent had looked through apartment listings with him and falsely told him that each listed unit in the man’s price range was either too small or was unavailable.  The agent also failed to show him a listing for an available apartment in a building he knew the man was interested in. 

 

housing discrimination on the basis of religion

 

THE LAW.  It is unlawful housing discrimination if a housing provider acts in a certain way because of your religious beliefs or because of his or her religious beliefs.

 

Question: May a landlord ask about my religion?

 

Answer:  Yes, if you don’t have to answer, and  the inquiry has a reasonable purpose.

 

It’s against the law to ask a housing applicant to disclose a religious affiliation on an application form if the landlord admits only persons of certain religions, or refuses admission of persons of other religions.  However, it is legal if it is not a basis for admission and the information is sought for a reasonable secular purpose, such as to allow managers of the project to notify a tenant’s clergyman in event of death or serious illness.

 

Question: May a real estate owner base his refusal to sell on the belief the buyer engages in religious practices he disapproves?

 

Answer: Yes, if the religious practices are not protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution or are illegal under criminal laws.

 

The Fair Housing Act bars discrimination “because of . . . religion,” but does not directly say if action violates the law when taken because of perceived religious conduct, as opposed to mere religious belief.  Because the U.S. Supreme Court has decided that the religious practice of polygamy is not entitled to First Amendment protection, and because the practice violated state law, real estate sellers who believed buyers engaged in polygamy could refuse to sell to them, without violating the fair housing law. 

 

Question: May a landlord be held liable for the discriminatory conduct of its residents against another resident?

 

Answer: Yes.

 

A landlord knew that white tenants engaged in severe and pervasive harassment of Muslim residents, which increased following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  However, the landlord failed to take any effective action to stop it.  The landlord is subject to a charge under the Fair Housing Act by making housing unavailable, discriminating regarding terms, conditions, privileges, services, or facilities, and interfering in the exercise or enjoyment of a dwelling because of religion.

 

Question: Can the Fair Housing Act cover harassment by a neighbor?

 

Answer:  Yes.

 

A couple of the Jewish faith sued their neighbors and homeowners association for housing discrimination on the basis of religion.  The neighbors had painted a religious epithet on their property, vandalized it, and tore down flyers seeking information about the vandalism. They also destroyed minutes of association meetings and erased a tape recording containing a threat against them. They also sprayed harmful chemicals in their yard and adopted rules restricting the couple’s use of their property.  A court held that this conduct violated the Fair Housing Act because the law makes it unlawful to coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with a person in their enjoyment of a dwelling on the basis of religion.

 

Question: May a homeowners association enforce a neutral rule that has the effect of  banning a religious practice?

 

Answer:  No.

 

Homeowners were threatened with fines or evictions if they did not obey association rules prohibiting religious decorations displayed on doors. The Association told them to remove from their door frames mezuzahs, items containing religious prayers and mandated by their religious faith. The homeowners success­fully brought complaints of religious discrimination in housing.

 

 

Question: Can the Fair Housing Act stop religious discrimination before it actually occurs?

 

Answer:  Yes.

 

A group of citizens openly unhappy with the activities of Hasidic Jewish citizens decided to incorporate their local area as a separate village.  They wanted to enact and enforce a zoning ordinance to control the religious conduct of this group.  Because the Fair Housing Act explicitly allows anyone who believes he "will be injured by a discrimina­tory housing practice that is about to occur," to sue, the Jewish citizens who were likely to suffer discrimination did not need to wait until the zoning law was actually enforced against them before they could challenge it. 

 

Question: May a landlord advertise to rent a room in her own house to someone of her own religious faith?

 

Answer: No.

 

The Fair Housing Act contains an exemption allowing certain owners to discriminate in the sale or rental of single-family homes, and in the rental of small apartment buildings where the landlord resides.  However, even where the exemption applies, landlords may never make a discriminatory communication or advertisement.  Thus, an elderly woman is entitled to rent a room in her home to a “mature Christian handyman,” but she cannot place an advertisement looking for one.

 

HOUSING discrimination on the basis of sex

 

THE LAW. Apartment managers and other housing providers must lease, sell and negotiate with women on the same basis as they do with similarly situated men. Also, they cannot sexually harass women.

 

Question: Can a landlord deny single women an apartment if he does so to protect them from harm?

 

Answer:  No.

 

A landlord who refused to rent units to single women without cars, but would rent to men without cars, violated the Fair Housing Act’s prohibition of discrimination based on sex.  The landlord argued the neighborhood was poorly lit and women walking through it risked as­sault, rape, “or worse.”  However, a court found that a benign motivation for discrimination, especially one so paternal­istic and overbroad, did not justify the discrimination.

 

 

Question: In deciding whether to accept a tenant based on her ability to pay rent, can a landlord refuse to credit a woman’s receipt of child support or alimony?

 

Answer:  No.

 

Many more women receive child support and alimony than do men. By failing to consider child support or alimony income, a landlord places an unequal burden on women applicants.   A landlord who does that violates the Fair Housing Act.

 

Question: I’m a victim of domestic violence.  My landlord is evicting me under a “zero tolerance for violence” policy.  Is that illegal?  

 

Answer: Yes.

 

For example, a woman who was severely beaten by her husband obtained a court order keeping him away from her and from their apartment. When the landlord found out, he gave her an eviction notice.  He had a policy of evicting the entire family when anyone in the household posed a threat to the health or safety of other residents.   A HUD investigation found that since 90% to 95% of domestic violence victims are women, the landlord’s policy of evicting innocent victims of domestic violence would harm mostly women.  This practice is unlawful sex discrimination.  When the woman sued the landlord under the Fair Housing Act, he settled the case, eliminated the unlawful policy, and paid compensation to the tenant.

 

Question: Does the Fair Housing Act outlaw my landlord making advances towards me?

 

Answer: Yes, if the landlord makes your housing depend on your response.

 

A landlord in a woman’s apartment to relight her furnace forcibly grabbed and kissed her on his way out. She slapped him and pushed him away.  The landlord refused to accept her rent the next time it was due and instead evicted her. The woman later sued and proved housing discrimination on the basis of her sex under the Fair Housing Act, through a case of “quid pro quo” sexual harassment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question:  Can my landlord sexually harass me as long as he does not ask me for anything or threaten me?

 

Answer: No, a landlord may not create a “hostile housing environment” based on sex.

 

A landlord’s conduct that is so severe or pervasive that it alters the conditions of a woman’s tenancy and creates an abusive living environment is discrimination based on sex under the Fair Housing Act.  A court found the standard was met in a case where a landlord's worker grabbed a tenant in intimate places, later attempted to kiss her, and verbally harassed her. The landlord continued to send the worker to the tenant's unit to make repairs even after she complained. The court found it to be a hostile environment and awarded the woman monetary damages for psychological disorders she suffered as a result.

 

Question: Are women in homeless shelters protected under the Fair Housing Act?

 

Answer: Yes.

 

Women in homeless shelters with their families who are subject to sexual harassment or other discrimination by shelter staff are allowed to sue their abusers under The Fair Housing Act .  Homeless shelters are considered “dwellings” that must comply with the Act.

 

Question: Can a landlord publish an advertisement in the newspaper seeking a "handyman" as a tenant for the apartment?

 

Answer:  No.

 

An advertisement indicating to an ordinary reader a preference in housing on the basis of sex violates the Fair Housing Act. Here, the word "handyman" suggests a preference for a male tenant, which is discriminatory and unlawful.

 

Question: Are owners or managers of property legally responsible for the discriminatory acts of their employees?

 

Answer: Yes.

 

Under the Fair Housing Act, an employer may be held responsible for the discriminatory conduct of his employ­ees, even though the conduct was not authorized. Therefore, a building owner may be liable to pay dam­ages for sex discrimination even though it was one of his employees who actually committed the unlawful conduct.  

 

housing discrimination on the basis of “familial status”

 

THE LAW.  If you are a child's parent or legal custodian, or someone taking care of children with permission from a parent or custodian, it is illegal for a housing provider to discriminate against you on the basis that you have one or more children under age 18 living with you. It is also illegal to discriminate against you because you are pregnant or because you are seeking custody of minor children.

 

Question: Can a landlord refuse to rent to a family with children out of concern for the welfare of the children?

 

Answer:  No.

 

A court held that a landlord violated the Fair Housing Act when he refused to rent to a family with children out of concern that the property would be a serious and real danger to the children. There was an ocean cliff and a deck above the cliff. There also were no other children in the neighborhood. Whether the apartment was appropriate for children was a decision to be made by the parents, not by the landlord.

 

Question:  May a landlord tell his rental agent that while he should not exclude families with children, he should give preference to people without children?

 

Answer: No.

 

Even oral statements indicating a “preference” in the sale or rental of a dwelling based on familial status violate the Fair Housing Act.

 

Question: Can a neutral rule or policy that in effect keeps families from renting violate the Fair Housing Act?

 

Answer:  Yes, if there is no legitimate business reason for the rule.

 

A landlord rented 2 bedroom apartments that had 950 square feet. However, he had a policy limiting those apartments to no more than 2 persons in order to minimize wear and tear. Because this excluded most families with children, a court found that this was an instance of "disparate impact" discrimination. The court found that the landlord's alleged business reason for the policy did not justify the discrimina­tion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Can families with children be restricted to certain areas in apartment buildings?

 

Answer:  No.

 

A condominium association prohibited families with children from buying or living in units on the second or third floors. They also told condo owners on the second or third floors that if a child moved in with them, they would be fined. A court found this violated the Fair Housing Act on the basis of familial status.

 

Question: When can a landlord determine a family is “too big” to rent a dwelling?

 

Answer:  When the family size exceeds laws setting occupancy limits or when it is reasonable to do so in a particular case.

 

The Fair Housing Act permits a landlord to obey reasonable laws limiting the number of persons who can live in a dwelling. Courts will allow private housing providers to set reasonable occupancy standards. These standards can be based on factors such as the number and size of bedrooms and the overall size of the unit. For example, a landlord might be permitted to refuse to rent a 3-bedroom apartment to a family of eleven. However, the landlord cannot impose arbitrary occupancy standards that are intended to exclude families with children.

 

 

Question: May an apartment complex limit chil­dren’s use of common amenities?

 

Answer:  No.

 

An apartment complex enforced rules limiting children to the use of only two of the six swimming pools in the complex. Despite the apartment owner’s argument that reasonable health, safety, and business reasons justified the policy, a court held it violated the Fair Housing Act’s ban on discrimination on the basis of familial status.

 

Question:  Can a landlord retaliate against me by trying to evict me if I challenge my landlord's illegal policies?

 

Answer: No.

 

Tenants who wanted to become foster parents sought permission from their landlord to have children live in their second-floor apartments, but the landlord refused, explaining that children were permitted only in first-floor units. The tenants were evicted when they sought to have the discriminatory policy changed.  This retaliation against an attempt to exercise rights under the Fair Housing Act violated the Act.

 

Question: Do rules directed specifically at children always constitute familial status discrimination?

 

Answer:  No.

 

A tenant being evicted argued the landlord violated the Fair Housing Act by imposing rules restricting where children could play in mobile home park, when they were to be accompanied by an adult, where they could ride bicycles, and later banning bicycles altogether. The court found that the rules were set for the safety of the children after several incidents involving children and bicycles, and so were lawful. 

 

housing discrimination on the basis of

physical or mental disability

 

THE LAW.  To be protected on the basis of a disability, a person, or someone associated with him or her, must have a physical or mental disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities. The disabled must be afforded reasonable accommodations necessary to allow them to use and keep a dwelling, and they have the right to make reasonable modifications to it (generally at their own expense). Also, certain newly-constructed multifamily dwellings must be physically accessible to the disabled.

 

Question: Is it illegal for a housing provider to discriminate using certain criteria, standards or procedures that disqualify you on account of your handicap?

 

Answer: Yes, a provider cannot hold you to a standard of performance or behavior to which other persons are not held. 

 

A housing provider cannot presume that you are less likely to be qualified than persons without handicaps.   Likewise, a provider cannot presume that you pose a greater threat to the health or safety of others than do persons without handicaps.   For example, it is a violation of the Fair Housing Act for a provider to require housing applicants to prove that they are able to live independently, if this has a discriminatory effect on persons with disabilities.   Another example:  The Act prohibits a provider rule which refuses admission of persons with mental illnesses to community residences.

 

 

 

 

Question: Does the Fair Housing Act require a city to make exceptions to its zoning laws to allow a group home for people with disabilities?

 

Answer:  Yes, if it is reasonable and necessary to afford disabled residents equal access to housing and the city lacks a good reason to deny the exception.

 

In certain circumstances, a city or town can violate the Act by zoning decisions that exclude persons with disabilities.  This is particularly true where a request for a variance to a city residential zoning law imposes only a minimal financial cost on the city for increased municipal services, does not impact the integrity of the city’s housing scheme, and creates no problems such as traffic congestion, noise or unwanted population density. 

 

Question: If you are being discriminated against for being a former drug addict, can you be protected by the Fair Housing Act?

 

Answer: Yes, as long as you are not currently using  or addicted to illegal drugs.

 

The Fair Housing Act defines “handicap” to include having a record of impairment or being regarded as having impairment, even if there is no current physical or mental impairment substantially limiting a major life activity.  That definition includes recovering substance abusers.  However, if you are illegally using drugs at the time of the alleged discrimination, that means that you are a current drug user and not “handicapped” under the law.

 

Question: Can the Fair Housing Act help me overcome a poor history as a tenant that was caused by my disability?

 

Answer:  Yes, a landlord may be required to give you a chance to rent by offering you a reasonable accommodation.

 

For example, an elderly woman with cerebral palsy and mental illness was denied admission into a large apartment complex because she had a record of poor housekeeping.  The Fair Housing Act requires a landlord to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or services if necessary for a disabled person to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. Because the woman had arranged for increased home health and homemaker services to address the past problems, it was reasonable for the landlord to overlook her past house-keeping problems. After filing a complaint of discrimination with HUD, the woman was able to negotiate a settlement in which the landlord modified its policy, and allowed her to move into the apartment.

 

 

Question: What inquiries can a housing provider make about your disability? 

 

Answer:  If you are a prospective buyer or renter, the provider cannot legally ask whether you have a handicap, nor can they ask about the nature or severity of a handicap or ask to see your medical records.  It is legal to ask certain questions related to disability if the provider asks these questions of all applicants, whether they have a disability or not.

 

These acceptable questions include inquires into:

Š       Your ability to meet the requirements of ownership of tenancy.

Š       Whether you are a current illegal abuser or addict of illegal drugs.

Š       Whether you have any drug convictions.

Š       Whether you are qualified for dwelling available only to persons with handicaps or with a particular type of handicap.

 

Under a different law, public housing authorities are allowed to ask an applicant whether he had ever undergone drug treatment and to sign a form releasing drug treatment records.

 

Question: When do I have a right to ask a landlord or other housing provider for a reasonable change or exception to the rules, policies, practices or services? 

 

Answer:  Whenever this is necessary to use or  enjoy your dwelling, and your request or an accommodation is reasonable.

 

Examples:

Š       A landlord must honor a request of a person with a mobility impairment to move to a lower floor apartment.

Š       A landlord must waive guest fees otherwise charged for a tenant’s home health care aide.

Š       A “no pets” policy cannot be used to prevent a blind housing applicant to have a seeing-eye dog.

Š       A mentally ill tenant may have the right to postpone an eviction hearing until she is out of the hospital and able to understand the proceedings. 

The “reasonable accommodation” requirement applies not just to your dwelling unit, but also to lobbies, main entrances, laundry rooms, and other common areas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: What dwellings must be designed and constructed so they are readily accessible to persons with disabilities?

 

Answer:  Any building  first occupied (by anyone) after March 13, 1991, having 4 or more units (all units must be accessible in elevator buildings, in others, only ground floor units must be accessible).

 

The law imposes some very specific “adaptive design” requirements, mostly favoring persons with mobility impairments.  These requirements require that the following be accessible:  an entrance on an accessible route, doors, interior routes, environmental controls such as outlets and thermostats, as well as bathrooms and kitchens.  Copies of the applicable standards are available from the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development.

 

Question: Can the Fair Housing Act protect someone whose disability causes behaviors people object to?

 

Answer: Yes, if a reasonable accommodation would resolve the behaviors.

 

For example, a landlord tried to evict a tenant for screaming at an elderly fellow resident and calling him names. The tenant suffered from a mental illness that caused him to have outbursts.  The Act permits a landlord to evict the tenant if he poses a “direct threat to the health or safety” of other individuals or their property. But before the landlord could exclude the tenant as a “direct threat,”  it had to consider whether a “reasonable accommodation” in rules, policies, practices, or services that could eliminate the risk.

 

HOW TO ENFORCE YOUR RIGHTS

 

 You have one year after the discrimination occurred or ended to file your complaint with HUD or the Illinois Department of Human Rights.  To make a complaint, call the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-765-9372 or visit the HUD website at http://www.hud.gov/complaints/housediscrim.cfm.  Or call the IDHR at 1-800-662-3942 or (217) 785-5100.

 

You have 60 days after the discrimination occurred or is discovered to file your complaint with the City of Galesburg Human Relations Commission.  To make a complaint locally, call the City of Galesburg Human Services Coordinator at (309) 345-3634.

 

For more information about your rights, visit www.pslegal.org or www.illinoislegalaid.org.  Low-income persons and senior citizens with civil legal problems in Knox, Fulton, Warren, McDonough, and Henderson counties can call Prairie State Legal Services at (309) 343-2141.

 

Produced by The Fair Housing Education Project of Prairie State Legal Services, Inc., funded in part from a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

 

02/06/02