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Fair Housing Laws Protect the Disabled
By: Legal Aid of Palm Beach County
In 1988, Congress strengthened the Fair Housing Act when it added "handicap" or disabled to the list of classes (race, color, religion, national origin, gender) protected from discrimination in the renting or selling of housing.
In a county in which an estimated 224,000 people are disabled, and the disabled are disproportionately relegated to poverty, discrimination based on disability has far outstripped discrimination based on race, national origin or ethnicity.
In 2009, of the 10,247 fair housing complaints filed, 44 percent were based on disability discrimination.
As a "protected class," disabled, under federal law, includes:
A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of a person's "major life activities" - which include walking, seeing, hearing, working, learning, speaking, breathing, caring for one's self.
Having AIDS and HIV;
Alcoholism and certain drug addiction.
Florida law further recognize disabilities as:
Mental or developmental disability including retardation, cerebral palsy, autism and spina bifida.
Physical impairment including epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, alcoholism and arthritis.
Mental incapacity including depression, anxiety, panic disorder, stress-related issues and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Disability is established by:
An open or obvious disability (ex: use if wheelchair, guide dog or hearing aid).
Receiving disability payments such as Social Security disability.
Verification from a physician or therapist. This verification must be on the care provider's letterhead and signed.
Many Homeowner's Associations request that the verification be notarized. Some fair housing advocates have successfully argued that it is an undue burden.
If you think you have been discriminated against in housing based on a disability, call Legal Aid of Palm Beach County at 1-800-403-9353 or (561) 655-8944.