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FHA and ADA Developments in Senior Housing and How to Avoid Discriminatory Practices

*This article was originally published by the American Seniors Housing Association.
Inequality across the spectrum of human rights warrants fresh attention to the laws that serve to prohibit discrimination in housing policies and practices, and senior housing is no exception.

Allegations of discrimination can involve senior housing operations in several areas, including marketing and advertising, accessibility concerns for disabled individuals, and treatment of members of the LGBTQ community. This paper will discuss developments in the industry and present suggestions for senior housing providers to consider and/or put in practice to avoid inadvertent discriminatory behavior and cultivate strategies that are both informative and welcoming.

Introduction

Two important anti-discrimination acts that apply to senior housing providers are the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), which work hand-in-hand to provide equal access to housing and places of public accommodation, respectively, for pre-defined protected classes of individuals. 1 The FHA prohibits discrimination in the sale or rental of dwellings for the following protected classes: race, color, sex, religion, national origin, familial status and “handicap,” which is more commonly called a “disability.”2 The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of physical or mental disability and Title III, specifically, prohibits discrimination in public accommodations operated by private entities.3 Courts have held that senior living communities are places of public accommodation subject to the ADA. 4 Over the past few years, there have been interesting FHA and ADA developments that could impact senior living providers. 5 Providers should be conscious of these developments and be proactive in protecting their organizations from risk or liability that can flow from non-compliance.

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