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Visit online training Fair Housing Act
by Regina Mayolo, WVATS
When President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968 on April 11, 1968, it was the result of decades of fighting by civil rights advocates to overcome housing discrimination in the United States. Title VIII of this Act is now known as the Fair Housing Act and prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing, based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and handicap (disability). West Virginia's substantially equivalent Fair Housing law adds two groups to these seven protected classes of citizens; blindness and ancestry.
For individuals with disabilities, the Fair Housing Act includes several significant points. For instance, when the Act was amended in 1988, it expanded its original concept of what constituted discrimination and concluded that the way in which a building was designed could be considered a discriminatory action. Features such as steps to enter a building or unusable bathrooms could discriminate against individuals with disabilities seeking housing in the community of their choice. As a result of this thinking, the amended Act contains seven design and construction requirements for multi-family housing, first occupied after March 13, 1991. These include requirements for accessible entrances, accessible routes into and through dwellings, locations for lights, thermostats and other controls, specifications for doors, and other requirements for accessibility and adaptability.
In addition, the Act provides for reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications, regardless of when the building was constructed or first occupied. Under these provisions, it is illegal for a landlord to refuse to let you make reasonable modifications if the modifications are necessary for you to use and enjoy the rental unit, common areas, and other services and amenities. Landlords also cannot refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or services. For example, a building with a "no pets" policy must allow a tenant with a visual impairment to keep a guide dog or honor a request from a tenant with mobility impairments for a reserved space near her apartment if the apartment complex offers unassigned parking to all tenants.
Retaliatory actions against individuals who file Fair Housing complaints or against those who assist individuals with filing complaints are also prohibited by the Fair Housing Act.
If you have a question about the Fair Housing Act or believe that you have been harmed by a violation of the Act, you may seek assistance from the West Virginia Fair Housing Initiatives Program by calling 304-296-6091 or contacting the NWVCIL Housing Advocate, Katharine Randall, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about the Fair Housing Act and your rights as a person with a disability as they related to housing, take the online class Fair Housing Act.
Posted: July 12, 2008