Fair Housing

Fair Housing: Guide for Property Managers Using Non-Discriminatory Practices for Tenants with Disabilities

The text for this brochure has been produced by Pacific Nonprofit Training Center under a Fair Housing Initiatives Program Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Grant #FH200G9300012. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication.


There are three federal laws that relate to the protection of people with disabilities from discriminatory housing practices. They are:

1. The Fair Housing Act:

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on disability by:

  • a. Prohibiting discriminatory housing practices;
  • b. Requiring reasonable accommodations to be made; and
  • c. Requiring certain construction standards for multifamily dwellings built for first time occupancy after March 1991.
2. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act:

Any public housing or public assisted housing provider that receives federal funding is covered under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. If it is either a Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) housing project or a Section 202 federally-subsidized apartment complex, it is covered under both Section 504 and the Fair Housing Act.

3. The Americans with Disabilities Act: (ADA)

Title II: Title II of the ADA covers all "public entities" ­ state and local governments regardless of whether they receive federal funding. Examples include: low-income housing units managed by the state or city; Public Housing Authorities; Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) certificate or voucher programs run by the state, county or city; or any city or county-sponsored single-room occupancy building.

Back to Top


The Fair Housing Act establishes accessible design and construction requirements for new construction of covered multi­family dwellings for first time occupancy after March 13, 1991. Single family dwellings are not covered under construction requirements. Multi-family dwellings are defined as consisting of four or more units. Examples of multi­family dwellings include: apartment complexes, condo units, single-story townhouses, and high rises. If a building has no elevator, the accessible construction standards apply to ground-floor units.



Discrimination or improper selecting, usually falls into obvious or subtle types of action:

Examples of discrimination can include:

  • Refusing to show or rent to a person with a disability.
  • Charging higher fees, deposits or rent to a person with a disability.
  • Refusing to show or issuing a denial to rent with a statement that the "unit has been rented" when in fact the unit is available.
  • Showing less desirable units.



Back to Top


In non­federally funded (or private sector) dwellings, units may be designed and constructed with adaptable kitchens and bathrooms, which means that features can be added or removed to allow accessibility. All other features to the dwelling need to follow the Fair Housing Act accessibility standards and regulations.



For federally-funded housing projects with elevator in buildings, all units must be designed and constructed to be fully accessible and usable by people with disabilities. In non­elevator buildings the ground-floor units are to follow the Fair Housing Act requirements.

Back to Top


All housing is covered under the Fair Housing Act with regard to advertising. This applies to the sale, rental or financing of a single-family house, as well as covered multi­family units.

Discriminatory notices, statements and advertising include:

  • Using words, phrases, photos, illustrations, or forms which convey that dwellings are available or not available to the particular group of persons because of national origin, religion, sex, race, color, familial status, or disability.
  • Expressing to agents, brokers, employees, or renters an illegal preference for or limitation on any purchaser or renter.
  • Selecting media or location for advertisement of the rental of units that denies segments of the housing market information about housing opportunities.

Back to Top


A landlord cannot:

  • Refuse to rent or deal with someone because he/she has a disability.
  • Apply different rules, deposits, or extra rental charges.
  • Make false statements about a particular unit's availability.
  • Refuse to make reasonable accommodations or modifications.
  • Intimidate or retaliate against someone who files a complaint.
  • Restrict the choice of unit or neighborhood of a perspective tenant.

A landlord can:

  • Ask qualifying questions of all prospective tenants as long as the same questions are asked of all prospective tenants.
  • Check references of a prospective tenant.
  • Verify a prospective tenant's ability to pay rent.
  • Create rules for the benefit of all building tenants as long as the rules do not discriminate against a protected individual or class.
  • Ask a prospective tenant with a disability how best to make reasonable accommodations, if requested, and proof of the need for the accommodation.

Back to Top


Physical Access:

You must ensure that your screening process is open and fully accessible to applicants with disabilities. This means your leasing office must be physically accessible and located on an accessible transportation route, unless it would create an undue financial and administrative hardship. If the office is not accessible, you need to make arrangements to deliver the application in person or by mail or to meet the prospective tenant in another accessible location.

Communication Access:

Documents intended for use by the applicant must be available in other formats such as large print, Braille and/or audio­taped. They need to be written clearly and simply to assist people with learning disabilities. Communication access for people who are hearing impaired and deaf also needs to be provided. You may need to go over the material verbally or assist the applicant with filling out the application and other needed forms.


After the person with a disability has become a tenant, he or she may request a modification to their unit in order to enjoy full use of it. Examples of modifications requested may include: building a ramp over the front steps to enter the dwelling; widening a doorway to the kitchen, bedroom or bathroom; installing grab bars in the bathroom; or removing a piece of carpet.

The modifications made are paid for by the tenant. You may require the unit be restored to its original condition when the tenant moves. You may require the tenant to pay into an interest bearing escrow account, over a period of time, a reasonable amount of money not to exceed the cost of restorations. You may not ask for an increased security deposit.

Modifications made in public housing may need to be paid for by the owner, depending on financial resources. In federally-funded public housing, the tenant is usually not required to pay for modifications as a reasonable accommodation.


The Virginia Fair Housing Law prohibits discrimination in housing because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, elderliness, familial status, or disability and makes it illegal to discriminate in housing. It applies to property managers, landlords, real estate agents, banks, insurance companies, mortgage lenders, and appraisers.

Fairfax Area Resources 

Endependence Center of Northern Virginia
703-525-3268, TTY 703-525-3553
Provides consultation on the ADA and will assist in making referrals.

Falls Church City ADA
Compliance Officer 703-248-5005, TTY 703-248-5149

Mid-Atlantic ADA Center
Voice/TTY 1-800-949-4232
Information and technical assistance on federal accessibility requirements of the ADA and related statutes.

Fairfax County Building Permits
703-222-0114, TTY 711
Provides information on county building codes.

Contact Fairfax County: Phone, Email or Twitter | Main Address: 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA 22035
Technical Questions: Web Administrator

ADA Accessibility | Website Accessibility
Awards | FOIA | Mobile | Using this Site | Web Disclaimer & Privacy Policy | Get Adobe Reader
Official site of the County of Fairfax, Virginia, © Copyright 2015

Website Feedback Website Feedback    Globe with various flags representing Web site language translations   Language Translations

Alert Logo   New Website Coming Soon--Check Out a Preview!
Return to Graphic Version