The Long Island Board of Realtors has created an online campaign to address an area of housing discrimination that makes up the majority of fair housing complaints — discrimination against people with disabilities.
LIBOR has added resources to its Home for All of Us website to include a guide to relevant fair housing laws for real estate agents, property managers and building owners. Last year, it launched the website with a focus on discrimination against people who use Section 8 housing vouchers and other lawful sources of income to pay their rent.
Under federal and state law, it is illegal for housing providers to discriminate against people with disabilities or refuse to consider or allow a reasonable modification or accommodation. LIBOR notes there are rare exceptions when such changes would cause a housing provider “an undue administrative or financial burden.”
“The bottom line for everyone is that a person with a disability has to have equal access to and enjoyment of their home just like anybody else,” said Doreen Spagnuolo, who became the CEO of LIBOR in September after serving in an interim capacity since June. She previously was LIBOR’s general counsel for 15 years.
Discrimination based on a disability accounted for 53% of the 33,000 fair housing complaints filed with U.S. fair housing organizations and government agencies last year, according to a report by the National Fair Housing Alliance.
Some situations that may violate fair housing laws include a landlord’s refusal to provide an assigned handicap parking space or make a building accessible to tenants with a disability.
LIBOR’s website also includes information about laws protecting the use of service and emotional support animals. It notes a landlord with a “no pets” policy must make a reasonable accommodation to allow these support animals.
“My goal is that I want LIBOR to be known as a go-to resource and trusted ally, not only to our members, but also to consumers, community groups, fair housing organizations,” Spagnuolo said.
Because the website is public and not in a members-only section of LIBOR’s website, the guides could be useful for real estate agents who need to explain to property owners why they need to change their policies, said Ian Wilder, executive director of Long Island Housing Services in Bohemia.
“They can just point to the website and it’s probably a little less confrontational … than to point them to a HUD website,” Wilder said.
People with disabilities often reach out to the Long Island Center for Independent Living to report instances of discrimination, mostly when housing providers won’t make reasonable modifications to make apartments accessible, said Therese E. Brzezinski, director of planning and public policy at the Levittown-based nonprofit.
She saw LIBOR’s campaign as positive but said its impact will depend on how real estate agents engage with the material.
“I hope the next step is going to involve really putting this into action, so this doesn’t just become more material on a website that maybe people use or maybe they don’t,” she said.