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Know Your Rights » Housing Discrimination » Fair Housing & Disability Laws

Fair Housing & Disability Laws FAQ

How do I make a reasonable accommodation request?

In order to get a reasonable accommodation or modification approved, tenants must first make a request to the landlord. The request does not have to be in writing, but whenever possible it is best practice to send all communication with the landlord in writing, certified mail return receipt and regular first class mail, and keep a copy. A request for reasonable accommodation or modification cannot be refused only because the tenant did not send it in writing. The request should describe the accommodation or modification, and explain the disability-related need for the requested action. Requests may be made any time during the tenancy, including in the application process and eviction process. The landlord has an obligation to respond to the request promptly.

What is reasonable accommodation?

A “reasonable accommodation” is a change made to a policy, program or service that allows a person with a disability to use and enjoy a dwelling, including public and common use areas. For example, reasonable accommodations may include providing rental forms in large print, providing a reserved accessible parking space near a tenant’s unit, allowing a resident to have a service animal in a building with a no pet policy, or permitting a resident who has developed mobility limitations to move to the ground floor of their building.

How long do I have to file a discrimination complaint?

Tenants have one year from the date of the incident of discrimination to file a fair housing complaint against the landlord.

Where do I file a discrimination complaint against my landlord?

Enforcement of fair housing laws is handled by a number of different agencies, depending upon the location of the housing. The Washington State Human Rights Commission has jurisdiction over rental housing in the entire state of Washington. Properties located within unincorporated King County can make discrimination complaints to the King County Office of Civil Rights. Tenants living within the cities of Seattle, Bellevue or Tacoma may make fair housing complaints to the Seattle Office for Civil Rights, City of Bellevue Development Services Department, or the City of Tacoma Human Rights & Human Services Department.
Complaints can be filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and whichever state or local fair housing agency that has jurisdiction over the rental property.

What is a reasonable modification?

A “reasonable modification” is a physical change made to a resident’s living space or to the common areas of a community, which is necessary to enable a resident with a disability to have full enjoyment of the housing. Examples of reasonable modifications include adding bathroom grab bars, lowering closet rods, and the installation of a ramp. Housing providers may not require people with disabilities to pay extra fees or deposits as a condition of receiving a reasonable accommodation or modification.

Do I have to pay for the cost of a modification to my unit that is necessary because of my disability?

Generally, reasonable modifications to the unit must be approved by the landlord but paid for by the tenant. The tenant must also agree to return the unit to the condition it was in before the modification, minus normal wear and tear, unless the modification would not interfere with the next tenant’s use and enjoyment of the unit. For example, a closet rod that is lowered as a modification must be raised upon move out, but a door that is widened can remain.

Do I have to pay a pet deposit for my service animal?

Landlords cannot charge tenants extra fees, deposits or cleaning charges for having service animals. Tenants with service animals are still required to follow all pet-related rules and guidelines, and must observe leash laws, waste disposal laws, and noise policies.

Is an emotional support animal still covered under service animal laws?

Emotional support or companion animals are animals that provide support for persons with mental and emotional disabilities, and do so without any particular training. Companion animals are considered to be service or assistance animals, and tenants with disabilities have the right to request reasonable accommodation for them. See Assistance and Service Animals for Tenants Who are Persons with Disabilities for more information.

Can I bring in a service animal even if my building has a no pet policy?

It is a reasonable accommodation to allow residents to live with service animals that meet their disability-related needs. Service animals are not pets. A person with a disability uses a service animal as an aid, similar to the use of a cane, crutches or wheelchair. Fair housing laws require that service animals be permitted in all units despite “no pets” rules.

Do landlords have to accept my Section 8 voucher?

It depends on where the rental unit is located. In the city of Seattle, unincorporated King County, Bellevue, Redmond, it is illegal for landlords to discriminate against someone because of their status as a Section 8 voucher holder. Landlords in these areas cannot legally decide not to rent to someone just because they use a Section 8 voucher to pay their rent. Landlords in these areas must offer one-year leases for Section 8 voucher tenants, and cannot charge Section 8 tenants a rental rate that exceeds the rate charged to a non-Section 8 tenant. Rents and utility costs must be reasonably affordable to Section 8 voucher tenants, unless the units are considered “luxury” units. See Section 8 Voucher Discrimination for more information.