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Information about all aspects of finances affected by a serious health condition. Includes income sources such as work, investments, and private and government disability programs, and expenses such as medical bills, and how to deal with financial problems.
Information about all aspects of health care from choosing a doctor and treatment, staying safe in a hospital, to end of life care. Includes how to obtain, choose and maximize health insurance policies.
Answers to your practical questions such as how to travel safely despite your health condition, how to avoid getting infected by a pet, and what to say or not say to an insurance company.


Under the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), it is unlawful for just about all sellers and landlords to discriminate in any aspect of selling or renting housing or to deny a dwelling to a buyer or renter because of the handicap of that individual. The law's protection extends to an individual associated with the buyer or renter and to an individual who intends to live in the residence.

"Handicap" includes life changing health conditions. "Handicap" includes HIV disease without requiring full blown AIDS.

Covered potential renters or sellers canot even ask about your health condition and/or health history. Questions are limited to those which relate to the ability to meet the requirements for tenancy or to purchase the property.

The Fair Housing Act also prohibits "steering:" directing you into a building primarily occupied by other people with a history of health challenges.

In addition, the law provides that owners have to:

  • Make reasonable exceptions to their policies.
  • Allow tenants to make reasonable modifications to the interior and common spaces.
  • Provide other reasonable accommodations.
  • Allow tenants to have an Emotional Support Animal
  • Give the same terms the owner would give to a person without a history of a serious health condition.

The only exception to the law's protections is if the landlord/seller can prove that you are a direct threat to other people because of your health condition. This is very difficult to do.

To enforce the law, you can sue, or complaint to a government agency.

For more information, see:

Landlords And Sellers Who Are Covered By The Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act covers all landlords except the following landlords:

  • Owners of single family houses which are sold or rented by an owner, as long as:
    • The owner owns fewer than three such single-family houses at any one time.
    • The owner does not sell through a broker.
  • Owners of rooms or units in dwellings containing no more than four families living independently of one another, if the owner actually maintains and occupies one of these living quarters as his or her residence.
  • Religious organizations - unless the religious organization provides housing for purely commercial purposes.
  • Private clubs - unless the club provides housing to nonmembers (though they are still permitted to give preference to their own members).

What The Fair Housing Act Requires Landlords To Do

Thanks to the Fair Housing:

  • Landlords must give the same terms and conditions for contracts they would give to other people.
  • Landlords must make reasonable exceptions in their policies and operations to afford people with an impairment full enjoyment of the premises. For example, a landlord with a "no pets" policy may be required to grant an exception to this rule and allow an individual who is blind to keep a guide dog in the residence.
  • Landlords must allow tenants with a handicap to make reasonable access-related modifications to their private living space, as well as to common use spaces. For example, tenants have to be permitted to add ramps or grab bars, to lower counter tops or to widen doorways. A landlord is not required to pay for the changes. The landlord may require that the premises be restored to their original condition when the tenant leaves if the request is reasonable.
  • Landlords must provide other reasonable accommodations. For instance, if the landlord has parking spaces, a tenant may ask for a space close to the building entrance even if the standard rules would give the spot to someone else.

A landlord does not have to provide an accommodation if the request is not reasonable.

  • A request may be considered unreasonable if it would create an unfair financial or administrative burden on the landlord or if it would fundamentally alter the nature of the landlord's operations. For example, putting an elevator in a small building is probably not reasonable.
  • It's up to the landlord to prove that an accommodation would be unfair. A request cannot be refused simply because it would take time or cost money.

How To Request An Accommodation

Think through what accommodation or accommodations you need to permit you to reasonably live in a premises.

Get an idea of what will be involved in making the accommodation before approaching your landlord. For instance, if there is a cost involved, how much it will cost? How much time will it take?

You can likely get an estimate by calling a few local contractors or supply companies. Contractors will usually look at your home at no cost and give you remodeling ideas to fit your needs. They can also give you cost estimates for different options. Perhaps a family member or friend has expertise in the area.

When you approach the landlord, keep in mind that the landlord may not be aware of the law. It is better to try to negotiate for what you need before bringing up the law because mention of the law may sound like a threat. If negotiation isn't your strength, ask a family member or friend to do it for you.

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Permitted Discrimination In The Fair Housing Act

The only exception in which discrimination is allowed under the FHA is when a landlord or real estate agent can show that a prospective tenant would be a "direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals." This is difficult to do - especially when the handicap in question is a life changing health condition.

It's difficult because the discriminating person would have to show that the prospective tenant would be a direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals. This in turn requires a direct relationship between the illness and the asserted direct threat. In addition, it has to be shown that there is no reasonable accommodation which can be made to eliminate the risk.

The courts have even concluded that people with transmittable HIV are not such a threat and are therefore protected under the law.

If You Have A Complaint: Preparatory Steps To Take

Before starting a complaint, gather information relevant to the situation. At least gather the following information:

  • The legal name and address of the landlord/owner.
  • The address of the premises in question.
  • A detailed description of the discriminating incident. Include as much information

as you can recall that seems related to the incident. For instance, the date and time, the setting, who was there, what was said, the impression that was conveyed by the person who created the incident. Revisit your draft description every day for at least three days to see if additional details come to mind to add.

  • A statement from any friendly witnesses to the incident. (Let the professionals speak with witnesses from the landlord's camp. Your asking for such a statement may mess up your ultimate chances for success).

Once you have a detailed description of the incident, use it as a source to create a brief description of the incident to use as a starting point for your complaint. Include details necessary for an objective person to understand what happened.

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If You Have A Complaint: What You Can Do About It

There are a batch of ways to enforce the Fair Housing Act.

  • File a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It's free. File a complaint at: File a complaint at: offsite link or at: Office of Program Compliance and Disability Rights, Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 451 7th Street, S.W., Room 5242, Washington, D.C. 20410. For more information, contact offsite link or 800.669.9777.
  • Check with your state to see if there is an agency which deals with housing discrimination.
  • File suit in federal court.
  • Contact the U.S. Attorney General who may file suit under the Fair Housing Act if there is a pattern of discrimination.

Low income families can get legal advice from National Legal Aid and Defender Organization: offsite link or call 202.452.0620.

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