The Fair Housing Act – Design and Construction Requirements
Dwellings, both private and public, comply with the Fair Housing Act’s design and construction requirements. Covered multifamily dwellings are in buildings that have four or more units. It includes all of the ground floor units, and, in an elevator building, all units in these buildings. It applies to housing that was designed or constructed for first occupancy after March 13, 1991.
Successful accessibility is often measured in inches, so attention to detail can make the difference between achieving access and excluding or injuring someone. When the minimum requirements are not met, the results can limit access for a person with a disability or exclude them from the housing altogether. Sometimes lack of access can even be dangerous.
In order to be in compliance with the Fair Housing Act, there are seven basic design and construction requirements that must be met. These requirements are:
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Requirement 1: An accessible building entrance on an accessible route.
All covered multifamily dwellings must have at least one accessible building entrance on an accessible route unless it is impractical to do so because of the terrain or unusual characteristics of the site.
An accessible route means a continuous, unobstructed path connecting accessible elements and spaces within a building or site that can be negotiated by a person with a disability who uses a wheelchair, and that is safe for and usable by people with other disabilities.
An accessible entrance is a building entrance connected by an accessible route to public transit stops, accessible parking and passenger loading zones
Requirement 2: Accessible public and common use areas.
Covered housing must have accessible and usable public and common-use areas. Public and common-use areas cover all parts of the housing outside individual units. They include—for example—building-wide fire alarms, parking lots, storage areas, indoor and outdoor recreational areas, lobbies, mailrooms and mailboxes, and laundry areas.
Requirement 3: Usable doors (usable by a person in a wheelchair).
All doors that allow passage into and within all premises must be wide enough to allow passage by persons using wheelchairs.
Requirement 4: Accessible route into and through the dwelling unit.
There must be an accessible route into and through each covered unit.
Requirement 5: Light Switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls in accessible locations.
Light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental control must be in accessible locations.
Requirement 6: Reinforced walls in bathrooms for later installation of grab bars.
Reinforcements in bathroom walls must be installed, so that grab bars can be added when needed. The law does not require installation of grab bars in bathrooms.
Requirement 7: Usable kitchens and bathrooms.
Kitchens and bathrooms must be usable-that is, designed and constructed so an individual in a wheelchair can maneuver in the space provided.
This is a sampling of common accessibility errors or omissions that have been identified through review of properties that do not comply with the requirements. It is not intended to be comprehensive or exhaustive. Any failure to comply with the requirements violates the Fair Housing Act.