Filing Fair Housing Complaints for Disability Discrimination

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jun 29, 2022

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You can file a complaint for violation of all the laws that prevent discrimination in housing or require disability access to housing and housing development facilities. For example, you can file a complaint in any of the following circumstances: 1) you are denied housing because of a disability; 2) a landlord refuses to reasonably accommodate your disability; or 3) a landlord tries to segregate disabled tenants. See Access to Housing: A Legal Right of the Disabled to find out which law applies to your situation.

The Laws Governing Fair Housing Act and Access

Both the Fair Housing Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 are enforced by HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development), and so when you file a complaint, you are really notifying HUD that someone is violating the laws that HUD is responsible for enforcing. This is called an “administrative complaint.” The complaint procedures are similar for both laws, but HUD has different powers under these laws. See below for the differences.

To file a complaint, get a complaint form from a HUD office or download and print a form with instructions. Use the same form for filing complaints under both laws. The completed complaint form can be mailed to the following addresses:

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The Fair Housing Act complaint:

Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity
US Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 7th Street, SW, Room 5242
Washington, D.C. 20410-2000

Section 504 Complaint:

Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity
US Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 Seventh St. SW, Room 5204
Washington, DC 20410-2000

You may also write a letter containing your name and address, the name and address of the person or entity you are complaining against, and a description of the discrimination. Send this letter to your local HUD office.

Complaints under the Fair Housing Act must be filed with HUD within one year of the alleged illegal discrimination. HUD will try to resolve the complaint by compromise, but if that isn’t possible, it will investigate to determine if there is reasonable cause to believe a discriminatory housing practice has taken place. If there is reasonable cause, HUD will schedule a hearing before an administrative law judge. At that point either party can choose to have the matter moved to federal court.

Complaints to HUD under Section 504 must be made within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory action. The complaining party may also bring a private civil lawsuit without filing a complaint with HUD. HUD will attempt to resolve the dispute. If there is no resolution, HUD will investigate to determine whether or not the housing provider was complying with the law. If HUD determines that the housing provider was breaking the law, HUD will give the provider 10 days to come into compliance before it begins enforcement proceedings.

Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can be enforced with a private civil lawsuit without first filing an administrative complaint. Complaints may be filed with the Department of Justice, which may refer the case for mediation. If the Department of Justice finds a pattern or practice of discrimination, or an act of discrimination that involves issues of public importance, it can file a lawsuit to enforce the act (instead of you).

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Architectural Barriers Act

This act is enforced by the U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board. You should send them a written complaint containing the following information:

  • Description of each barrier;
  • Name and location of building or facility.

If possible, include information about:

  • Owner of the building or facility;
  • Federal funds used to build;
  • Date the facility was built or altered.

If possible, also include a sketch or photograph of the barrier.

You can contact the Board at:

The Access Board

Office of Compliance and Enforcement

1331 F Street, N.W., Suite 1000

Washington, D.C. 20004-1111

(800) 872-2253 (voice)

(800) 993-2822 (TTY)

The Board will seek to resolve any violation of the act it finds. If efforts at a resolution fail, the Board can take legal action.

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