Section 504: Accessibility

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About Section 504

HHA’s housing is available to individuals, families and persons with disabilities who qualify for low and moderate income housing.

HHA is committed to ensuring that all residents, including those with disabilities, have safe, sanitary, and appropriate housing. The Authority will strive to meet the needs of its applicants and residents with disabilities and do so in the most integrated setting as possible.

HHA has accessible apartments in a variety of our communities.  Current residents requiring a reasonable accommodation please review the Request for Reasonable Accommodation Form by clicking the icon at the top of the page.  You may also contact the Resident Services Department.

Should you have any questions, or if you have comments or suggestions on how the Housing Authority can better serve its residents with disabilities, please use the button below to contact us.

Watch the video to learn more about accessible housing for disabled individuals.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Below you can find answers to your most asked questions regarding accessible housing for individuals with disabilities. If you have a question that is not answered below, you may be able to find the answer on HUD’s website. Scroll down and click the button below to access HUD’s FAQ page.
Who is protected by Section 504?
Persons with disabilities, persons associated with persons with disabilities, and other persons engaged in certain protected activities under the law.
How is disability defined under Section 504?
An individual with a disability is any person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. The term physical or mental impairment may include, but is not limited to, conditions such as visual or hearing impairment, mobility impairment, HIV infection, developmental disabilities, drug addiction, or mental illness. In general, the definition of “person with disabilities” does not include current users of illegal controlled substances. However, individuals would be protected under Section 504 (as well as the ADA) if a purpose of the specific program or activity is to provide health or rehabilitation services to such individuals.

The term major life activity may include, for example, seeing, hearing, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, caring for one’s self, learning, speaking, or working. This list is not exhaustive. Section 504 also protects persons who have a record of such impairment, or are regarded as having such an impairment. For more information, visit Disability Overview.

What discriminatory practices does Section 504 prohibit?
Section 504 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in any program or activity that receives federal financial assistance. This means, for example, that persons with disabilities cannot be denied the opportunity to participate in a program or activity because of their disability; cannot be required to accept a different kind or lesser program or service than what is provided to others without disabilities, and cannot be required to participate in separate programs and services from those available to persons without disabilities, even if separate programs and services exist.

In general, with respect to housing, HHA cannot deny or refuse to sell or rent to a person with a disability, and cannot impose application or qualification criteria, rental fees or sales prices, and rental or sales terms or conditions that are different than those required of or provided to persons without disabilities.

HHA cannot not require persons with disabilities to live only on certain floors, or in one section of the housing. Housing providers may not refuse to make repairs, and may not limit or deny someone with a disability access to recreational and other public and common use facilities, parking privileges, cleaning or janitorial services, or any services which are made available to other residents without disabilities. Additionally, persons with disabilities may not be denied the opportunity to serve on planning or advisory boards because of their disabilities.

Does Section 504 require HHA to accept every person with a disability who applies for housing?
Section 504 does not require that a person with a disability be accepted without regard to eligibility requirements or his or her ability to meet standard, nondiscriminatory tenant selection and screening criteria. Rather, Section 504 requires that a person with a disability be evaluated using the same objective criteria that are applied to persons without disabilities, provided such criteria are nondiscriminatory and subject to reasonable accommodations and the provision of appropriate auxiliary aids and services necessary to ensure effective communication.

Applicants, with or without a disability, may be rejected if they have a record of adversely affecting others such as excessively disturbing neighbors, destroying property, or failing to pay their rent on time. However, under Section 504, the HHA must make sound and reasonable judgments based on objective and reliable evidence (current conduct or a history of overt acts).

Subjective fears, unsubstantiated rumors, speculation and generalized suspicion do not constitute objective information that an applicant cannot meet the terms of tenancy. HHA also subject to reasonable accommodation requirements with respect to such policies and may be required to make exceptions based on the manifestations of some disabilities.

Can a landlord charge a higher security deposit to a person who uses a wheelchair because of concerns about damage to the unit?
No. An individual with a disability who uses a wheelchair is no more likely than anyone else to cause damage, beyond typical wear and tear, to a dwelling unit. However, if a person who uses a wheelchair does cause damage to a unit that is beyond normal wear and tear that may be caused by use of a wheelchair, that individual may be required to cover the cost of such damage out of a standard security deposit that is charged to everyone.
What is a reasonable accommodation under Section 504?
A reasonable accommodation is a change, adaptation, or modification to a policy, program, service, or workplace which will allow a qualified person with a disability to participate fully in a program, take advantage of a service, or perform a job. Reasonable accommodations may include, for example, those which may be necessary in order for the person with a disability to use and enjoy a dwelling, including public and common use spaces. Since persons with disabilities may have unique needs due to their disabilities, in some cases, simply treating persons with disabilities exactly the same as others may not ensure that they have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.

In order to show that a requested accommodation may be necessary, there must be an identifiable relationship, or nexus, between the requested accommodation and the individual’s disability. As discussed in the next question and answer, what is reasonable must be determined on a case-by-case basis. However, experience has shown that the following examples are often reasonable accommodations:

  • A federally-assisted housing provider has a policy of not providing assigned parking spaces. A tenant with a mobility impairment, who has difficulty walking, is provided a reasonable accommodation by being given an assigned accessible parking space in front of the entrance to his unit.
  • A federally-assisted housing provider has a policy of requiring tenants to come to the rental office to pay their rent. A tenant with a mental disability, who is afraid to leave her unit, is provided a reasonable accommodation by being allowed to mail her rent payment.
  • A federally-assisted housing provider has a no pets policy. A tenant, who uses a wheelchair and has difficulty picking up items off the ground, is allowed to have an assistance animal that fetches things for her as a reasonable accommodation to her disability.
  • An older tenant has a stroke and begins to use a wheelchair. Her apartment has steps at the entrance and she needs a ramp to enter the unit. Her federally-assisted housing provider pays for the construction of a ramp as a reasonable accommodation to the tenant’s disability.
When and how should I request a reasonable accommodation?
An individual with a disability should request an accommodation as soon as it appears that the accommodation is needed. However, requests may be made at any time. For example, requests may be made when you are applying for housing, entering into a lease, or occupying housing. If you develop a disability during your tenancy, you can request accommodations, even if you did not have a disability when you signed your lease.

To request reasonable accommodation, scroll to the top of this page and click the “Request for Reasonable Accommodation Form” icon to open the form. You can print this form, fill it out, and return it to the Resident Services office located within Potomac Towers on 11 W. Baltimore St. in Hagerstown.

What is an accessible unit, based on Section 504's requirements?
HUD’s Section 504 regulations define an accessible dwelling unit as a unit that is located on an accessible route and can be approached, entered, and used by individuals with physical disabilities. A unit that is on an accessible route and is adaptable and otherwise in compliance with the standards set forth in 24 C.F.R § 8.32 is accessible. In addition, the Section 504 regulations impose specific accessibility requirements for new construction and alteration of housing and non-housing facilities in HUD assisted programs. Section 8.32 of the regulations states that compliance with the appropriate technical criteria in the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) or HUD’s Deeming Notice, or a standard that is equivalent to or stricter than the UFAS, is an acceptable means of meeting the technical accessibility requirements in Sections 8.21, 8.22, 8.23 and 8.25 of the Section 504 regulations. However, most units are covered by multiple federal accessibility laws and multiple federal accessibility standards. Compliance with all applicable accessibility laws is necessary.

Discrimination Complaint Process

If you have a complaint about HHA’s adherence to Section 504 guidelines– for example, if you feel that you or someone you know with a disability has been discriminated against by HHA, you can file a complaint with HUD (the Department of Housing and Urban Development).

If you would like to file a discrimination complaint, click the button below to access a form where you can voice your complaint. 

Once you have filled out the form, you can either email it to complaintsoffice03@hud.gov, or mail it to this address:

Philadelphia Regional Office of FHEO
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
The Wanamaker Building
100 Penn Square East, 12th Floor
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107-3380

Guidelines for filing a complaint: 

If you have a legitimate complaint regarding discrimination, it is important to file a complaint so that the issue can be addressed and resolved. However, there are some guidelines you must follow to make sure your complaint is considered legitimate by HUD. 

  • Your complaint must contain: the complainant’s name and address; the name and address of the individual or organization  alleged to have discriminated; and a description of the discriminatory actions and the date of those actions.
  • You must file your complaint within 180 days of the alleged act of discrimination. In some cases, this amount may be lengthened on the basis of good cause. The complaint will be deemed “received” on the date postmarked.
  • You may file a complaint for yourself. If you cannot fill out the form yourself, you can get a representative/case manager to file the complaint for you.
  • Section 504 discrimination complaints can only be filed if the discriminatory act is in regards to someone with a disability. Other forms of discrimination (race, religion, etc.) have a different complaint process.

After filing a complaint: 

Within 20 days of receiving your complaint, HUD will determine whether or not to accept, reject, or refer your complaint to a different Federal agency (if the complaint does not appear to fall under Section 504 jurisdiction). You will be notified of this decision.

If your complaint is accepted, HUD will also notify the organization at fault. At that point, the organization will have 30 days to respond to the allegations.

Resolution of the Complaint: 

During the complaint investigation, HUD will encourage a voluntary resolution between the parties. This means that HUD will work with the complainant and the organization to come to a solution to the issue that is agreed upon and accepted by both parties. A volunteer resolution is the preferred resolution, and HUD wishes to emphasize that all efforts will be made to reach a voluntary solution.

However, if a voluntary resolution can not be reached, it may be necessary for HUD to issue a formal Letter of Determination. If, within 10 days of the receipt of the Letter of Determination, the parties still have not complied to the solution outlined in the letter, HUD will initiate enforcement of legal proceedings.

For more information about the discrimination complaint process, click the button below.

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