Real Estate Terms

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 Real Estate Definition

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in real estate and other areas.

This act protects disabled people across many industries, but you’ll need to know how it works in real estate to pass the exam. Luckily, you can trust our team of real estate professionals to guide you through the crucial details of the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

In this post, we’ll define the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, explain its role in real estate, and give examples of how it works. Keep reading to learn more!

What Is the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people with disabilities against discrimination in housing. This federal law states that housing providers must provide equal opportunities for persons with physical or mental impairments. 

Who Is Protected by the ADA?

Any person with a legal disability is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA defines a person with a disability as: 

  • Having a physical or mental impairment that limits their major life activities
  • Having a history or record of their impairment
  • Being perceived by others as having such an impairment 

Examples of physical or mental disabilities that are covered by the ADA include:

  • Deafness 
  • Blindness
  • Mobility repairments that require the use of a wheelchair
  • Cerebral Palsy 
  • Cancer
  • Epilepsy
  • Muscular dystrophy 
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Intellectual disability
  • Autism
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Bipolar disorder 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Schizophrenia 

How the Americans with Disabilities Act Works in Real Estate

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 plays a significant role in real estate. Under this act, housing providers must make reasonable accommodations and modifications to ensure disabled people can live comfortably in their units. If such accommodations are not made, housing providers can face legal repercussions. 

What Is Reasonable Accommodation in Housing?

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a reasonable accommodation is a change or exception to a rule, policy, or service that allows a person with disabilities access to housing.

A housing provider must ensure that public spaces in the facility are accessible to individuals with disabilities. This includes: 

  • Hallways
  • Laundry rooms
  • Lobbies
  • Elevators
  • Parking lots
  • Amenities  

If these areas are inaccessible and a person with a disability requests accommodations, the housing provider must resolve the issue.

Examples of ADA Accommodations

Examples of reasonable accommodations in housing include:

  • Assigning a handicapped parking space for persons with mobility impairments
  • Allowing a tenant with mobility issues to live on a ground-floor unit 
  • Changing a tenant’s payment schedule to accommodate when they receive income assistance   
  • Installing a grab bar in a tenant’s shower
  • Allowing a tenant to bring a service pet in a “no pets” apartment building
  • Installing a ramp into the entrance of a building for persons in wheelchairs

What Types of Property Are Covered by the ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 covers most housing types, including:

  • Private housing
  • State or local government housing
  • Public housing
  • Federally assisted housing programs

This means that apartment buildings, hotels, motels, inns, and other housing units must comply with the ADA. 

What Types of Property Are Not Covered by the ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 does not cover the following properties: 

  • Residential properties 
  • Religious organizations
  • Private clubs

This means that privately owned homes, churches, and clubs do not have to comply with the ADA.

Examples of ADA Violations in Real Estate

Housing providers violate the Americans with Disabilities Act with the following actions:

  • Incorrectly using handicapped signs or not using them at all
  • Installing ramps with an improper slope or no railways
  • Missing an accessible counter for persons in wheelchairs
  • Having restrooms with inaccessible dimensions and no grab bars
  • Having a swimming pool with no wheelchair lifts
  • Refusing to make reasonable accommodations or modifications for individuals with disabilities 

Let’s look at an example of a disability discrimination lawsuit that occurred as recently as 2021.

Las Vegas Landlord Sued for Disability

According to the HUD, a Las Vegas landlord and property manager were accused of disability discrimination. These housing providers denied housing to a woman with an assistance animal. The woman claimed that after she signed the lease, the owner and manager refused to rent the house to her because of the service dog.

This discrimination violates the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. As a result, the courts ruled that the owner must pay $6,500 to the tenant and take fair housing training courses. The owner and property manager also had to comply with the ADA and make reasonable accommodations for this tenant.

Who Enforces the American With Disabilities Act?

The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) enforces the ADA in real estate. If a person with a disability faces unfair and unnecessary discrimination, they can contact the FHEO to have their claim investigated. 

However, it’s important to note that several federal agencies are responsible for enforcing the ADA. This is because there are multiple industries to which the ADA applies. Other enforcers include:

  • The Department of Labor (DOL)
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
  • The Department of Transportation (DOT)
  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

When a person or business is found guilty of violating the ADA, they will be penalized by the relevant agency. 

Penalties for Violating the ADA

The penalties for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act include the following fines:

  • Up to $75,000 for a first-time violation
  • $150,000 for additional violations

In some regions, the fines for violating the ADA may be even higher. Some state and local governments have stricter accessibility standards than federal law requires. 

Businesses who violate the ADA may also face further financial damages due to a tarnished reputation. Many tenants refuse to live in housing units that have violated the ADA, as it is a poor reflection of a company’s ethics. 

What Is the ADA Amendments Act of 2008?

The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 empowered the ADA to protect more people with disabilities. Before this amendment, the Supreme Court had interpreted the definition of “disability” very narrowly. This meant that individuals with certain disabilities were not winning their cases against housing discrimination.

The ADA Amendments Act expanded the definition of “disability” so that more people with physical or mental impairments were protected under the law. 

What Else Does the Americans with Disabilities Act Do?

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 protects people with disabilities in more areas than just housing. The ADA also prohibits discrimination in:

  • Employment 
  • State or local government
  • Public accommodations
  • Commercial facilities 
  • Transportation
  • Telecommunications

Challenges with the Americans with Disabilities Act 

One of the main challenges with the Americans with Disabilities Act is that it often goes unenforced. The only way this type of discrimination gets penalized is if a person with a disability files a complaint.

There are a few issues people have with this enforcement strategy. For one, many feel that the onus should not be on disabled people to ensure businesses are doing the right thing.

 Secondly, these types of lawsuits can take years before a resolution is met. Even if a housing provider is found guilty of violating the ADA, the person who filed the claim will rarely receive a monetary benefit. The guilty party simply must resolve the violation and pay the plaintiff’s attorney fees.

Because the process is a headache that provides little reward, people with disabilities often do not sue for discrimination. Unfortunately, this allows discrimination against disabled people to flourish in the housing market. 

How Real Estate Agents Can Uphold the ADA

As a future real estate professional, it’s your job to follow the ADA and help reduce housing discrimination. Real estate agents should:

  • Familiarize themselves with ADA rules
  • Work with companies who comply with the ADA
  • Recommend accessible housing units for individuals with disabilities
  • Ensure their websites are accessible for disabled people

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s answer some frequently asked questions real estate students have about the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

How Does the Fair Housing Act Protect Disabled People?

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) of 1968 is another federal law that protects people with disabilities looking for housing. The FHA prohibits discrimination against seven protected characteristics, including:

  1. Race
  2. Color
  3. National origin
  4. Religion
  5. Sex (sexual orientation and gender identity)
  6. Familial status
  7. Disabilities

Which Impairments Are Not Covered by the ADA?

The following impairments are not protected under the ADA, as they do not classify as disabilities:

  • Broken bones that will heal
  • Common cold or flu
  • Gambling addiction
  • Old age
  • Pregnancy
  • Sprains 

When Can a Housing Provider Deny an Accommodation Request?

A housing provider can deny an accommodation request under the following circumstances:

  • The person requesting an accommodation does not have a physical or mental impairment 
  • There is no disability-related need for the accommodation
  • The accommodation would result in undue financial burdens
  • The accommodation would require an undue administrative burden

What to Know Before the Real Estate Exam

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in housing and other areas. This act requires that housing providers make reasonable accommodations to help persons with disabilities find housing.

Because The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 has a significant impact on fair housing laws, it’s an important part of the real estate exam. After reading this post, we know you’ll have no problem acing this section of the test.
But this isn’t the only federal housing law you’ll need to know before the big day. Study more vital real estate terms using our online Real Estate Flashcards!

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