Senior Housing Complex Accused of Denying Housing Because Prospect Uses Wheelchair

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) recently announced that the owners and operators of a California senior housing complex have agreed to settle claims that they denied housing to a prospective resident because she has a disability.

In her complaint, the prospect alleged that the property manager initially approved her tenancy application but rescinded the approval after meeting her and seeing that she uses a wheelchair. The prospect’s daughter had handled most aspects of the application process, including viewing the unit. When the prospect arrived in a wheelchair to sign the lease, the property manager allegedly refused to rent her the unit and accused her and her daughter of misrepresenting the prospect’s identity by bringing other individuals to view the unit.

After DFEH found cause to believe a violation of the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act had occurred, the parties engaged in mediation, resulting in a $2,500 settlement to the prospect.

“The Fair Employment and Housing Act promises that all tenants, regardless of disability, have equal access to housing,” DFEH Director Kevin Kish said in a statement. “Housing providers have a legal obligation to eliminate unlawful bias from every stage of the housing application process.”

In the January 2019 lesson, Fair Housing Coach reviews fair housing rules on dealing with individuals with mobility impairments. Federal, state, and local fair housing laws ban discrimination against people on the basis of disability, including a wide range of mobility impairments. People with mobility impairments who use wheelchairs are particularly likely to face housing discrimination, according to a 2015 nationwide study conducted by HUD and the Urban Institute. Among other things, the study found that well-qualified testers who use wheelchairs were more likely to be denied an appointment to view recently advertised rental housing in buildings with accessible units than comparably qualified testers who are ambulatory.

For more information, see the Coach’s January lesson, “How to Avoid Fair Housing Trouble When Dealing with Individuals with Mobility Impairments,” available to subscribers here.