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Disabilities and Your Fair Housing Rights (FAQs)

Authored By: Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, Inc. (FHAC)


How do the fair housing laws protect people with disabilities? +

Fair housing laws protect people with disabilities from unfair treatment in the renting and purchase of housing.

For example, you have the right:

  • To meet only the same standards as other home seekers, and no more. For example, a landlord can check your credit and references, and a landlord can require a certain level of reliable income. However, a landlord cannot require that your income be from a job.
  • To ask for reasonable physical modifications if you need them, such as ramps, levers instead of doorknobs, visual smoke alarms, lowered kitchen cabinets, grab bars in the bathroom, or widening doorways. The landlord may or may not have to pay for this. If the landlord gets certain kinds of federal money, the landlord must pay. If the landlord does not get federal money, the landlord does not have to pay. Even if you pay for the modification, the landlord could require that you return the rental to its original condition when you move.
  • To request reasonable accommodations or changes in policies if needed. For example, if your landlord does not allow pets but you require a service animal because of your disability, you can request that the landlord make an exception to the "No Pets" rule for you.
  • To expect the decision to rent (or to sell or grant a loan) to be based only on your individual qualifications.
  • Not to be asked questions that are not asked of others, unless necessary to make sure you qualify for special housing for persons with disabilities.

To be told about all available vacanciesand to be offered your choice of where you want to live.

What is a "disability" protected by fair housing laws? +

"Disability" means a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of a person's major life activities. This includes, but is not limited to, people who use wheelchairs; people with visual disabilities; people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction; people limited by emotional problems, mental illness or retardation; and people with difficulties because of old age. The term "disability" not apply to current illegal use of drugs.

Are there any special rules for new houses or apartments? +

Yes. For most multi-family housing built and occupied after March 13, 1991, the federal Fair Housing Act says that first floor units and all units in buildings with elevators must be designed with accessibility features, including:

  • Accessible entrances on an accessible route.
  • Doors wide enough for persons in wheelchairs.
  • Readily accessible public and common use areas.
  • Accessibly located light switches, electrical outlets, and thermostats.
  • Reinforced bathroom walls to install grab bars.
  • Plenty of space in kitchens and bathrooms for wheelchairs.

Accessible ways into and through the building.

What could be discrimination, and what can I do about it? +


These are some examples of possible discrimination against people with disabilities:

  • A landlord with a "no pets" policy refuses to allow a blind person to have a guide dog.
  • A landlord will not let a tenant who uses a wheelchair install a ramp.
  • You are asked questions about your disability or your ability to live on your own (unless the landlord has modified units and may give you one).
  • A landlord demands a larger security deposit because you have a disability.
  • You are told only about apartments in the back of a complex even when you think there are other vacancies.
  • The landlord keeps telling you there are no vacancies but keeps advertising and taking applications.
  • You are told the owner's insurance company will not allow the owner to rent to you because of your disability.

If you think you may have been discriminated against because of your disability, seek legal help. Call the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) at (504) 596-2100 or toll-free at (877) 445-2100. Visit GNOFHAC on the web at www.gnofairhousing.org.


Last Review and Update: Apr 01, 2020

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