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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


SECTION 504

Do any accessibility requirements apply to detached single-family homes?

Detached single family homes that are funded in any way by federal, state, or local funds may be required to be accessible under laws other than the Fair Housing Act. These laws, particularly Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, have requirements for accessibility. For example, detached single family houses funded through the HOPE VI program operated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), whether for sale or rental, must comply with HUD's requirements for Section 504. This includes making at least 5% of the units accessible to persons with mobility impairments and at least 2% of the units accessible to persons with vision and hearing impairments. The applicable standard for compliance is the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standard or UFAS.

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Are the public and common use areas of a newly constructed development that consists entirely of buildings that have no covered dwelling units required to be accessible under the Fair Housing Act?

If there are no covered multifamily dwellings on a site, then the public and common use areas of the site are not required to be accessible under the Fair Housing Act. Supplement to Notice of Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines: Questions and Answers about the Guidelines, 59 FR 33362-33368, June 28, 1994, question 13.

However, the Americans with Disabilities Act (Title III) may apply to certain areas that serve the public. The Americans with Disabilities Act (Title II) may apply to housing that is operated by public entities such as state or local governments. Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act may apply to public and common use areas of properties that are operated by entities that receive federal financial assistance. An independent determination should be made regarding whether or not the ADA or Section 504 may apply and require accessibility when the Fair Housing Act does not apply.


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What properties does Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act cover?

Section 504 covers properties if they are constructed, renovated, operated or purchased by a recipient of federal financial assistance. If the federal financial assistance comes from HUD and the project contains five or more units, HUD's regulations require that at least one unit, or a minimum of 5% of the dwelling units (whichever is the greater number) constructed or renovated, must be accessible to people with physical disabilities and at least one unit or a minimum of 2% of the units (whichever is the greater number) must be accessible to people with hearing and vision disabilities. The 5% and 2% requirements are floors, not ceilings. 24 CFR 8.22 and 8.23.

The 5% and 2% requirements apply to each "project" that receives federal financial assistance. The term "project" includes units that are covered by a single contract or application for federal assistance. A housing development located on a single site may consist of several "projects" as defined in HUD's regulations; when this happens the 5% and 2% requirements applied to each "project" may require more units to be made accessible than if the 5% and 2% were applied to the development as a whole. On the other hand, a "project" might consist of dwelling units located on several scattered sites but funded by one contract or application for federal assistance. When this happens, the 5% and the 2% requirements apply to the total number of dwelling units covered by the contract or application.


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If Section 504 and the Fair Housing Act apply to the same property, which standard applies?

If housing was built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991 and federal financial assistance is involved, both laws apply and the accessibility standards under both laws must be used. Preamble to the Guidelines, 56 FR 9472, 9477 and 9479, March 6, 1991.

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Has HUD issued any guidance about Section 504 compliance generally?

Yes, HUD has issued several notices about the general requirements of Section 504 to various types of HUD-funded housing. For public housing, it is Notice 2002-01, Accessibility Notice; for Housing, it's Notice H 01-02, extended by Notice H 02-03; for housing funded through the CDBG program, like HOME, it's Notice 00-09, extended by Notice 02-03. These notices are available on www.hudclips.org. HUD also has a website that deals with disability rights in HUD programs at www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/disabilities/sect504.cfm.

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What are the federal access requirements for rental offices?

(a) Are rental offices required to be accessible under the Fair Housing Act?

Rental offices serving buildings that are covered by the design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act must comply because they are public and common use areas.

(b) What requirements apply to rental offices that are not covered by the Fair Housing Act's design and construction requirements?

If the buildings are not covered by the Fair Housing Act's design and construction requirements (for example, because they were built for first occupancy before March 13, 1991), the Fair Housing Act's general requirements of non-discriminatory treatment and reasonable accommodations apply. If a rental office is not accessible, a person with a disability must still be accommodated.

In addition, rental offices that serve the public must comply with the access requirements of the ADA, Title III (that is, if they are constructed for first occupancy after January 26, 1993), they must be constructed to comply with ADAAG; if constructed before that date, architectural barriers must be removed if doing so is "readily achievable." 36 U.S.C. 36.401.

A housing provider is covered by Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act if the provider is a recipient of federal financial assistance. Section 504 requires that "programs and activities" such as a rental office be accessible. When physical accessibility cannot be provided, access to rental office services must be made available in some other way.


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Under Section 504, what is the accessibility standard?

The access standard for units covered by Section 504 is the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards or UFAS. Changes to this standard and issuance of a new standard are currently under consideration.

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