You know how difficult it can be to get around on crutches or in a wheelchair. You may need a wheelchair ramp or wider doorways in order to enter a building or even your own home. An accessible home is one that allows its occupant to do what he or she wants and needs to do, as independently as possible.
The good news is, if you or your family member has a disability that requires special housing accommodations, you’re protected under the Fair Housing Act. This includes military installation housing.
If you or someone in your family is disabled, your home may need specific modifications to make it accessible for daily living. Fortunately, through the Fair Housing Act, there are laws that require property owners to make, or allow residents to make, a home accessible for those with specific or special needs.
THE FAIR HOUSING ACT
The Fair Housing Act requires housing providers to:
• Make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. A property owner, however, is not required to make changes that would create an undue financial or administrative burden.
• Allow people with disabilities to make reasonable modifications. Property owners must allow residents to make changes to their units if those changes are necessary for the tenant to use the unit fully.
The Fair Housing Act also makes it illegal — based on your or your family member’s disability — to:
• Refuse to rent a dwelling or to accept a legitimate offer
• Evict someone
• Use different applications or criteria
• Segregate people to specific units or areas
• Ask if anyone has a disability
• Refuse to make or allow reasonable modifications or accommodations
The Fair Housing Act applies to most housing options. In fact, many states have fair housing laws that provide even greater protections. For your specific state law, contact your public housing agency.
DID YOU KNOW?
Did you know that the Architectural Barriers Act requires access to all buildings designed, built, altered or leased with federal funds? According to the United States Access Board, at least 5 percent of each military installation’s housing is required to be either accessible or readily and easily modifiable for accessibility.
In privatized housing on military installations, property managers are required to make reasonable alterations and accommodations that abide by the Americans with Disabilities Act at no cost to the tenant.
WHAT FAMILIES WITH SPECIAL NEEDS SHOULD DO PRIOR TO RELOCATION
The availability of affordable on- and-off installation housing varies from one location to another. Military families withspecial housing requirements should contact the housing office or the Exceptional Family Member Program coordinator at their new duty location as early as possible. You can find contact information for both of these resources through www.militaryinstallations.dod.mil/
– Military One Source
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS FURTHER RESOURCES
• Learn more about how the Exceptional Family Member Program and how it can help you and your family.
• Read the Fair Housing Act article, Fair Housing – It’s Your Right
• Check out the Equal Opportunity for Individuals With Disabilities fact sheet to learn about legal protections for individuals with special needs
HOW TO HANDLE ACCESSIBLE HOUSING DENIALS:
• If you’ve been wrongfully denied accessible housing, you should:
• File an administrative complaint. You can file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development within one year. To bring action under state law, contact the responsible state agency.
• File a private lawsuit. You can file a suit in federal court within two years. However, deadlines for state court actions vary. Moving is stressful, but for military families with special needs it can be even harder. If you or your family member has specific accessibility needs, reach out to your new installation’s housing office for help in finding a home that has everything you need to make your life as easy and comfortable as possible.