Keeping Properties in Compliance with ADA and Fair Housing Laws

Compliance in Multifamily

There seems to be an increase in activity in the monitoring for compliance of accessibility at multifamily properties across the country. 2015 brought us the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). ADA is intended to protect against discrimination based on disability and imposes accessibility requirements on public accommodations. As most multifamily properties have a leasing office onsite, those offices, as well as common areas, fall under the requirements of the law.  While most multifamily dwelling units do not fall under ADA, units built after 1991 are required to comply with the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988.

Fair Housing and Compliance Regulations

The purpose of all three of these regulations is to ensure the rights the disabled and protect against discrimination, which would include providing equal access to such things as multifamily apartment complexes. The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) use their enforcement ability on behalf of the disabled to ensure that those rights are protected. Each agency has developed policies to allow a person to report potential discrimination based on disability. HUD has been very active advertising in both print and electronic media, conveying to residents and potential residents their rights under the various accessibility laws.

The purpose of all three of these regulations is to ensure the rights the disabled and protect against discrimination, which would include providing equal access to such things as multifamily apartment complexes. The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) use their enforcement ability on behalf of the disabled to ensure that those rights are protected.

Disabled Veteran Poster - hud.govTurn the Lights Off Poster - hud.gov

Each agency has developed policies to allow a person to report potential discrimination based on disability. HUD has been very active advertising in both print and electronic media, conveying to residents and potential residents their rights under the various accessibility laws.  These ads, including this one showing discrimination against an Iraqi war veteran, are very effective and to the point. The second ad above does a great job in pointing out that controls and switches, which most people take for granted on a daily basis, might be inaccessible to someone who is mobility impaired.

As both agencies have demonstrated through their public outreach, compliance with the nation’s accessibility laws is important to them. It should be important to the owners and managers of multifamily properties as well.

Major costs associated with non-compliance in communities

Non-compliance with accessibility laws can carry huge consequences. If the DOJ finds evidence of discrimination by an owner/operator regarding accessibility, it will demand correction of those areas of non-compliance. When the DOG prevails in litigation, it can require retrofitting of properties cited, an injunction against future discrimination, fair housing accessibility training, record keeping and periodic reporting to the DOJ.

In addition to these remedies, the DOJ will seek to identify victims of the alleged discriminatory housing practices, and seek a court judgment to require payment of monetary damages to those victims as well as require a payment of a civil penalty. On top of all of these complying with these requirements, more than likely the owner/operator is going to incur enormous legal fees. The cost of settling with the DOJ far exceeds the cost of reviewing accessibility at a property and correcting any non-compliance.

Planning and evaluating can help protect your property

In order to help protect themselves from potential lawsuits, owner/operators should conduct an evaluation of each property for ADA compliance and create a transition/correction plan to correct any areas of non-compliance. There are several firms that can provide these plans to owner/operators. The cost of these plans is nominal compared to the cost of settling with the DOJJ or any resident who might bring a suit for equitable relief for discrimination for accessibility non-compliance.

Fair Housing Compliance

It is recommended that a new plan be created at least every five years if not more often as there are many accessibility elements that can quickly fall out of compliance. An owner/operator should ask themselves how often a parking lot is restriped or a level handle is changed out in a sink to determine how quickly a unit or a property can become non-complaint.

It should also be noted that not only should an owner/operator identify and correct any accessibility non-compliance to prevent lawsuits and findings by regulatory agencies, it is the right thing to do to provide equal access to their properties to persons who are mobility, visually and hearing impaired.

For more tips on keeping your property in compliance with ADA and fair housing, register for our on-demand webcast series on accessibility compliance.


Gregory Proctor

VP of Business Development - Windsor Compliance, RealPage, Inc.

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Greg is a thirty-year veteran of the affordable housing industry and has owned and/or operated all types of affordable housing including HUD, Tax Credit and Rural Development. He has a degree management from Appalachian State University and holds multiple affordable housing designations and certifications.

Mr. Proctor is currently responsible for Business Development of Windsor Compliance, which is now part of the RealPage family. Along with business development, he also works closely with state housing finance agencies on behalf of Windsor’s clients and the industry.

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