Saturday, May 26, 2007

I don't want to rent to you

[visual description: A picture of a "For Rent" sign is shown.]

My friend Charlie* is looking for an apartment. He uses a wheelchair and is visibly disabled. Although he can afford most of the apartments he's seen, has good credit and excellent references from former landlords, he's been turned down for every single one after he's gone to look at them.

Why? As one prospective landlord bluntly said to him "I don't want to rent to you. There'll be problems because you're in a wheelchair that I don't need to deal with."

This landlord was the eighth on a list of ten who turned Charlie down in a row. And the landlord was surprised when he was contacted by a local attorney who informed him that he violated the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against a person with a disability. Many of those renting or selling housing who act in discriminatory ways toward the disabled may find themselves in this position as the years go on. Expectations of people with disabilities have risen and some, like Charlie, will seek legal redress when denied housing.

Charlie told me that he wants to rent an apartment near his aging mother to make things easier. He's willing to jump through the legal hoops of filing complaints and possibly suing to have the same access to housing that able bodied people have enjoyed in our society. Not only does he need to solve his own personal situation, but he is doing it for other people with disabilities who may not have as many resources as he does.

"If nothing else," he told me, "maybe some of these landlords will think twice next time before automatically closing the door on a qualified tenant who has a disability." And he adds "Maybe it will save some young person from hearing those words 'I don't want to rent to you'."

To file a fair housing complaint, call toll-free at (800) 699-9777 or (800) 543-8294 (TDD). Or visit HUD on the Internet at to fill out a discrimination claim online. Local Boards of Realtors will also accept complaints alleging violations of the Code of Ethics filed by a home seeker who alleges discriminatory treatment in the availability, purchase or rental of housing.

[*For reasons of privacy, Charlie is a fictitious name.]


Anonymous said...

After I sold my house to pay some medical bills back in the 90's , I tried to rent an apartment. I had such trouble that I finally rented from a friend of a friend who knew I was disabled . I'm still in the same place but wonder what would happen if I had to move.

Never That Easy said...

Good for Charlie: I applaud him for doing what he can in this situation. We need to move, but are having quite a difficult time even finding listings that say whether or not they're accessible - it's something I hadn't thought of before, but it's making the process much harder. I've also been dreading a similar situation to his, when we finally get around to applying for places, because I need so many specific things, and maybe landlords would think "She's going to be so much trouble, let's just move to somebody else."

Ruth said...

Here's some tips:

Call some local realtors and ask if anyone in the office happens to be familiar with accessible housing (this helped me once); call a local Independent Living Center to see if there are any landlords who have called with open accessible apartments; and check local disability papers like Disabled Dealer. Remember to measure before you call so you can specifically describe what you need (for example doorway size, room around toilet to transfer). This can save big mistakes from happening! I've also seen people get places by word of mouth - let folks know you're looking in your social circles. Some realtors /landlords are quite open to renting to people with disabilities-I've found that using a realtor can help save time and eliminate apartments that won't work due to physical requirements. Let me know if you have other questions or concerns.