TenantsTips / USA / Rental Rights for the Disabled

Rental Rights for the Disabled

As a disabled person, you're provided with significant protection and rights when it comes to renting a property under the federal Fair Housing Act, as well as a number of state and local laws.

As a renter with a disability, it's important to know that a landlord is not legally able to question whether or not you have a disability or illness, nor is a landlord allowed to ask for medical records. In addition, after you find a rental property, your landlord may be required to provide accommodations, at their own expense.

You also have rights pertaining to making your own modifications to a rental property, at your expense. Ultimately the goal of the disability requirements under the Fair Housing Act aim to ensure that a landlord treats a tenant with a disability in the same way non-disabled tenants are treated. The law is complex, but includes a few primary regulations that impact landlords and tenants in a broad way.

What's Required of a Landlord

A landlord is required to make exceptions to their rules, as are deemed reasonable, in order to accommodate a tenant with a disability. For example, if a building has a no-pets policy, a service dog must be permitted.

Landlords are also required to make, or allow the tenant to make reasonable modifications to a property, both in the personal space of the tenant's apartment, and to the common areas, as necessary. For example, the installation of grab bars in an apartment is likely to be viewed as reasonable. In most cases, the tenant will be required to pay for these items, although this may not be the case in federally assisted housing units.

Despite this provision, tenants are required to obtain the permission of their landlord before they make these changes.

The landlord is required to show a disabled potential tenant all vacant units, regardless of whether or not they are ground floor or accessible. For example, a disabled person should be shown every unit, and only be restricted to accessible units at their own request.

Additionally, landlords must charge the same amount in rent and fees to a tenant, regardless of their status as disabled. A landlord can't make a disabled tenant pay fees that are the result of their disability. An example of something prohibited is a higher security deposit to cover damage that results from wheelchair usage.

disabled renters rights

What a Landlord is Prohibited From Doing

As well as guiding what a landlord must do, the Fair Housing Act also dictates what a landlord can't do, under law. First, a landlord can't question a tenant or future tenant's condition. Any questions, such as "are you able to walk at all," or "why are you missing a leg," are not allowed.

Tenants aren't required to be capable of independent living to rent a property. If a tenant requires a live-in caretaker, the landlord has to permit this.

Disabled renters are also entitled to their privacy-the landlord can't speak to other tenants about a particular renter's disability.

Landlords cannot tell a renter they don't have accessible properties as a way of forbidding them from renting. Only the renter has the right to determine their needs, and they may not require an accessible unit. Along the same lines, a landlord is not permitted to put a disabled person in a certain unit or part of the building. For example, some landlords want to put the disabled tenants in a certain portion of the building that's out of sight, but that is illegal.

What is a Disability

Under the federal Fair Housing Act, the following conditions are considered a disability:


  • Mobility, hearing and visual impairments
  • Chronic alcoholism being treated in a recovery program
  • Mental illness
  • HIV or AIDS
  • Mental retardation
  • A history of disability


Essentially, laws regarding a disabled renter's rights aim to prevent a landlord from making decisions on behalf of the renter, or making it more difficult for a renter with a disability.


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