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What Multi-Family Owners Need To Know About ADA And Fair Housing Accessibility Laws

With the complexities of the various accessibility laws, many inspectors, auditors, and regulatory agencies misinterpret them. The result? Many multi-family owners end up spending money to try and be compliant without understanding the requirements. The solution? To avoid a fair housing lawsuit, fine, or penalty, site managers need a good understanding of which regulations apply to their property.

So, let’s examine the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Fair Housing Act regarding accessibility at multi-family properties:

Accessible vs. Adaptable Units

The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (FHAA) requires that buildings constructed after March 13, 1991, include seven specific design features and are adaptable. The design requirements of adaptable units allow the owner to quickly adapt a unit for someone with a disability who will need accessible features.

Properties with Government Subsidies

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a national law that protects qualified individuals from discrimination based on their disability. Parts of the section apply to properties with government subsidies, depending on when the property is built. The design requirements of the law pertain to newly constructed Rural Development properties in 1982 and for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) properties in 1988.

ADA Does Not Apply to Dwelling Units

It turns out that since ADA applies to public accommodations apartment properties are not required to have Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) units. Of course, all public areas, including the leasing office, must be fully accessible.

And Just What are the Seven Design Requirements Required by FHAA?

The FHA seven design and construction requirements for accessibility for multi-housing structures of four or more units include: An accessible building entrance through an accessible route, accessible and usable public and common-use areas, usable doors; for all “covered units,” meaning those on the ground floor or all units of the building on floors serviced by an elevator, accessible routes into and through the covered dwelling unit, light switches, electrical outlets and other controls must be in accessible locations, reinforcements in all bathrooms for the possible later installation of grab bars, and kitchens and bathrooms with sufficient maneuvering space to be “usable” by people in wheelchairs.

We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.