Fair Housing for Seniors with Disabilities

Authored By: Minneapolis - Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid
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Fair Housing Laws Mean Equal Opportunity in Housing +

Fair housing laws protect everyone from discrimination.  This includes the elderly and people with disabilities.

Are seniors with disabilities protected in all types of housing? +

Fair housing laws protect seniors with disabilities who live or apply to live in:

  • single family homes
  • condominiums
  • cooperatives
  • townhomes
  • nursing homes
  • assisted living
  • housing with services
  • continuing care facilities
  • senior apartments
  • mixed age apartment buildings
  • mobile home communities
  • other settings

Fair housing laws apply to renters and home buyers – but some protections only apply to one or the other.

Go to for more information about fair housing rights and resources.

Hold on – Why can’t nursing homes pick residents based on disability? +

Nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and similar housing must follow disability rights laws.  Some people think these providers can pick and choose residents based on any disability.  This is not true.  If these providers reject your application, evict you, or treat you differently because of your disability, they may have broken the law.

These Things May be Signs of Illegal Housing Discrimination: +

  • Was your application denied because of your disabilities?  Are you being evicted because of your disabilities?
    For example, is anyone saying things like:
    • I can’t let you rent that apartment.  I am afraid of being responsible if you get hurt.
    • We are evicting you because you can’t live independently.
    • You must move out.  This assisted living facility can’t meet your needs anymore.
    • Our nursing home can’t accept people with your kind of disabilities.
  • Are you being questioned about your ability to “live independently”?
    For example, is someone asking any of the following:
    • Are you able to live on your own?
    • Do you have a disability?
    • How bad is your disability?
    • Do you take medications?
    • Why do you get social security benefits?
    • I’ll need to look over your medical records.
    • Have you ever been hospitalized because of mental illness?
  • Are you being treated differently because of your disabilities?
    For example, is anyone saying things like:
    • We must take away your wheelchair because you can’t operate it properly.
    • Residents with walkers live on the first floor.
    • Only our active seniors live in these units.
    • You can’t eat in the dining room because your disability makes others uncomfortable.
    • People who use wheelchairs cause damage so you have to pay a double security deposit.
  • Does advertising discourage people with disabilities?
    For example, a poster or ad that says things like:
    • Ambulatory persons only.
    • Building ideal for agile/physically fit.
    • No mentally ill.

You Have the Right to Ask for Reasonable Changes +

You may ask for structural or physical changes to a place you rent if you need them because of your disabilities.  These are called “reasonable modifications.”  These changes can be in your unit or in common areas.  You have the right to equal use of all the common areas – including the main entrance and the residential elevator.

For example, you may ask for structural changes like:

  • bathroom grab bars
  • adjusted door knobs
  • a ramped entry
  • a wider door to allow wheelchair passage

You may be asked to pay for some of these changes unless the housing provider gets government funding or the home was built after 1991.

You may also ask for a change in policies or rules if you need them because of your disability.  These are called “reasonable accommodations.”

For example:

  • a change in the place where community gatherings and meetings are held
  • a more convenient parking space
  • the reconsideration of an application denial or eviction
  • the use of a service or companion animal
  • the adjustment of services.

In most newer, multi-unit buildings – occupied after March 1991 – higher levels of accessibility are required.  This includes accessibility for the elevator, public/common areas, doors, bathrooms, and kitchens.

Contact your local Legal Aid office +

Contact your local Legal Aid office if you feel you are the victim of housing discrimination and want to understand your rights.  This service is free to eligible individuals.

In Hennepin and Anoka counties, call:

The Housing Discrimination Law Project at the

Mid- Minnesota Legal Aid (Minneapolis Office) at (612) 334-5970.


In Dakota, Ramsey, Carver, and Washington counties, call:

Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services at (651) 224-7301.


You can also call:


MN Department of Human Rights

MN Department of Human Rights - St Cloud

Freeman Building

City Hall

625 Robert St North

400 Second St South

St. Paul, MN 55155

St. Cloud, MN 56301

Phone: (651) 539-1100 or (800) 657-3704

Phone: (320) 650-3133

TTY: 711 in the metro and (800) 627-3529 in greater MN




Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

77 West Jackson Boulevard

Chicago, IL 60604-3507

Phone: (800) 765-9372     


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