Fair Housing Act, Americans with Disabilities Regulations, and Commercial Real Estate in Texas

Much more goes into the success of real estate than just owning and selling properties. Knowing, understanding, and complying with the Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act is crucial. Failure to follow is one of the most expensive lessons a real estate professional could learn. With the right tools and guidance, it is simple to avoid mistakes. 

Below we outline and explore the federal Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Texas accessibility standards, and Texas fair housing requirements in relation to commercial real estate properties in Texas. It’s important to note that some jurisdictions in Texas have additional protections for marginalized groups not covered by federal and state protections that owners must follow

Page Contents

The Federal Fair Housing Act

As an amendment to the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act was passed by congress in 1968 to extend civil rights protections to those buying, selling, or renting real estate in the United States of America. 

The Fair Housing Act clearly outlines how real estate professionals are to treat clients, how they can prevent violations of the law, and how they can ensure everyone is treated fairly under Fair Housing protections.

Under the Fair Housing Act of 1968, all citizens are protected from discrimination when they engage in housing-related activities like applying for a mortgage, signing a lease agreement, seeking housing assistance, selling a home, buying a home, etc. 

The Fair Housing Act protects buyers, renters, and sellers from discrimination based on the following:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Familial status (whether or not the person seeking housing is married or unmarried; or if they have children under the age of 18)
  • Disability

While the law protects buyers, renters, and sellers from potential discrimination, it also guides real estate professionals. The Fair 

Housing Act clearly outlines how real estate professionals are to treat clients, how they can prevent violations of the law, and how they can ensure everyone is treated fairly.

Fair Housing Act

Fair Housing Act and Renting

Under the Fair Housing Act, the civil liberties of those looking to rent a home, apartment, or other living space are protected. The policy ensures landlords cannot refuse to rent based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability.

Although the policy is a part of federal law, there are still instances where property owners violate the Fair Housing Act. The following are examples of renter Fair Housing Act violations:

  • Lying about unit availability to disallow someone from applying to live in the unit
  • Denying housing without basis
  • Giving one ethnic group, family, or other classification a higher rate of rent simply because of their classification 
  • Blockbusting, or selling a property well below value to avoid certain ethnic or religious groups from moving into the neighborhood
  • Refusing to rent or sell a home because of a person’s background, ability, or beliefs

If a potential lessee feels they are being discriminated against, they can file a complaint with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or with the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

Fair Housing Act and Buying, Selling, or Getting a Mortgage  

The Fair Housing Act regulations also apply to banks and mortgage lenders. As such, lenders may not refuse anyone a loan or provide misrepresentation during an appraisal or inspection based on their sex, race, national origin, religion, color, familial status, or disability.

Some examples of mortgage discrimination are as follows: 

  • Quoting someone a higher interest rate simply because you disagree with their religious views
  • Setting different requirements for a female applicant than a male applicant
  • A lender changes the rules for applying for one ethnic group 
  • Misrepresent a property’s availability or condition because of a person’s demographic during an appraisal 

Fair Housing Act and Marketing or Advertising 

The Fair Housing Act doesn’t just protect against discrimination when renting or buying a property. The same rules apply to the marketing and advertising of those properties.

Here are some examples of violating the policy in regards to marketing and advertising: 

  • Indicating a preference for a specific demographic – couples without children, non-Spanish speakers 
  • Telling someone of a particular demographic that the neighborhood consists of others from that same demographic 

All the marketing materials must follow the Fair Housing Guidelines.

Exceptions to the Fair Housing Act Guidelines 

There are some instances where real estate professionals are exempt from the housing guidelines, including: 

  • Members-only organizations or private clubs
  • Single-family homes that are rented or sold without using a real estate broker
  • Owner-occupied properties with no more than four total units
  • Owner does not own more than three single-family homes at one time
  • Housing owned and operated by a religious organization – only covers the religious preference 

For example, there are “adult-only” living communities and retirement homes across America. These facilities or neighborhoods are intended for those ages 55 and older. In this instance, these property owners are exempt from Fair Housing rules regarding age and familial status.

It is important to note that property owners and managers must still comply with local laws in addition to state and federal guidelines. 

The Federal Americans with Disabilities Act 

More than 20 years after the Fair Housing Act was passed, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in acollaborative effort between both parties, members of the administration, and federal and state leaders.

Americans with Disabilities Act

The ADA policies eliminated the exclusion, hardship, and prejudice those with disabilities faced because they were perceived as “different.” The Fair Housing Act included some protections for those with disabilities, but many public spaces and public transportation did not have the accessibility for those with physical or mental disabilities. The ADA was enacted to change this. 

 

The ADA law applies to both mental and physical disabilities, which do not need to be permanent or severe for a citizen to qualify for protection. In 2008 the law further expanded the protections of the ADA Amendments Act 2008 to include Americans with: 

  • Cancer 
  • Diabetes 
  • Certain mood disorders 
  • Epilepsy

Businesses are prevented from arguing that some issues do not count as “disabilities,” with the amendments focusing solely on discrimination and not the diagnosis. 

Americans with Disabilities Act Details  

The ADA is considered an extension of the Civil Rights Act, ensuring those with physical or mental disabilities can enjoy the same freedoms and guarantee fundamental rights as everyone else.

ADA protections extend over:

  • Employment
  • School
  • Transportation
  • Public shopping areas
  • Private spaces that are open to the general public
  • Housing
  • Business, offices, and retail centers
  • Public transportation
  • Telecommunications

Since its passing, several amendments have been added to the law to clarify further who is included under the ADA, what sectors must comply with these regulations, and updates as technology advances.

The ADA and Housing 

Housing is one of the sectors that falls under the protection of the Americans with Disabilities Act, covering public spaces and services. For most privately-owned multifamily rental properties or single-family rental properties, ADA regulations do not apply, and owners must operate under the Fair Housing Act.

Failure to Follow ADA Laws  

The ADA exists to reduce the daily struggles many citizens face. When a business or property owner fails to comply with the ADA law, citizens are encouraged to report these violations. 

Complainants – the person who experienced discrimination, someone who witnessed discrimination, or someone who has concerns about ADA law compliance – can file a report with the Department of Justice: Civil Rights Division

The following are the next steps taken: 

  1. A civil rights investigator will examine the case. In that instance, the investigator will contact the complainant and other witnesses to get more detailed information about the claim. 
  2. The case against the business or building owner may move to a lawsuit or be brought before the court to negotiate a formal settlement.

In another route, those who feel they have experienced discrimination may choose to contact their state or local Fair Housing and ADA Law division to make a complaint within 30 days of the alleged violation. In Texas, residents can contact the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Like a federal complaint, anyone can file a grievance against a Texas business or landlord: a person with a disability, a family member or friend, an employee, or a witness to the incident.

Each claim will be investigated, and if the business has a pattern of noncompliance, the business could face fines, fees, and potential litigation.

The Fair Housing Act and The Americans With Disabilities Act Working Together 

The Fair Housing Act and the ADA policies are separate laws that work together to protect residents against housing discrimination.

For example, the Fair Housing Act requires landlords to allow service animals that help people with disabilities to live more productive lives, even if the property doesn’t otherwise accept animals. The Act prevents real estate professionals from refusing housing or services based on disability

While the Fair Housing Act and the ADA are to separate laws, they do work together to protect residents against housing discrimination.

The ADA is different in that it regulates the accommodations necessary in public spaces. This includes wheelchair ramps, accessible parking, and accommodations for the seeing or hearing impaired. The exception to ADA policies is that privately-owned and operated multifamily housing units are not required to provide ADA accommodations in each of their units. This means a public restroom needs accessible stalls and grab bars, however, an apartment complex is not required to provide accessible bathrooms for residents.

Housing owned and operated by the federal or state government and HUD housing must have a percentage of ADA-accessible units under the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws.

Are Property Owners and Managers Required to Follow Fair Housing Act or ADA Law? 

For property owners and managers, the distinctions between the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act can be deemed overwhelming. However, owners and managers of private housing – not in conjunction with HUD or another government housing authority – are primarily bound under the Fair Housing Act only.

The most important consideration is not to discriminate or fail to provide services to someone based on a disability. Public offices are lawfully obligated to comply with ADA law regulations in conjunction with the Fair Housing Act. 

Standards for Accessible Design  

In 2010, the Attorney General revised the ADA guidelines, adding Standards for Accessible Design. Under this revision, architects, builders, and other commercial and residential construction professionals must include planning and accommodations for those with disabilities.

While the Standards for Accessible Design document can be deemed daunting with more than 275 pages, it is a guidebook to building a space that allows access for everyone. The booklet outlines several considerations for accessibility, including:

  • The number of accessible parking spaces a building must have, based on the size and occupancy
  • Aisle and hallway width requirements
  • Door opening/closing requirements dependent on space
  • Bathroom accessibility standards
  • Counter height and other accessibility requirements for ADA housing
  • Seeing-impaired considerations
  • Grab bars, handlebars, and ramps

These guidelines only apply to new construction or properties undergoing renovations.

Properties that fall under the Standards for Accessible Design requirements include, but are not limited to:

  • Amusement parks, including amusement park rides 
  • Exercise facilities, including adaptive exercise equipment
  • Golf facilities, including miniature golf
  • Swimming pools, wading pools, saunas, and spas
  • Play areas, playgrounds, and fishing piers or platforms
  • Government buildings, including correctional facilities, government-owned housing, and judicial centers

The Standards for Accessible Design ensure those with disabilities can access and enjoy public spaces just like everyone else. The Standards require business owners, property managers, and builders to provide accommodations for those entering these spaces or using these facilities.

Fair Housing, ADA, and Commercial Real Estate 

Understanding the difference between the two housing laws is essential for commercial real estate property owners and managers.

Multifamily property owners must comply with the Fair Housing Act and the ADA. These CRE property owners or managers will primarily focus on Fair Housing regulations since that’s the bulk of their business. However, public access areas, like lobbies, gyms, swimming pools, or leasing offices, must be ADA compliant.

In contrast, other commercial real estate sectors will focus more on the Americans with Disabilities Act. Office properties, retail establishments, warehouses, and other commercial locations do not provide housing. As such, owners and property managers won’t concern themselves with Fair Housing requirements. Instead, these areas must meet accessibility requirements for workers, clients and customers, and members of the general public.

Fair Housing Act and ADA Compliance in Texas 

While all states must adhere to the federal Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act, each state and local jurisdiction may pass additional protections to include other provisions to prevent discrimination beyond what the federal laws require.

In Texas, lawmakers added to the federal housing and accessibility regulations to include a wide range of marginalized groups of people. 

Discover the housing law requirements specifically for the Lone Star State – Texas. 

Fair Housing Regulations In Texas 

It should be noted the Federal Fair Housing Act does not protect residents against discrimination based on age, military status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or source of income. 

Some states have updated their housing provisions to include these protections, however, Texas has not. 

Texas has included one protection not found in the federal Fair Housing Act – discrimination against pregnant women. 

Some cities in Texas have enforced their housing regulations in conjunction with the Fair Housing Act: 

  • In 1982, Austin became one of the first cities in the nation to prohibit housing discrimination based on sexual orientation.
  • In 2000, Fort Worth added sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected classification under local housing laws.
  • Dallas updated its fair housing laws in 2002 to protect members of the LGBT community, and in 2015, the Dallas City Council expanded protections for transgender individuals.
  • In 2013, San Antonio joined many other cities, expanding fair housing protections to the LGBT community.
  • Houston became one of the largest cities in the nation to pass fair housing protections for LGBT individuals in 2014.
  • Other cities have expanded protections based on sexual orientation, including Grand Prairie, El Paso, Plano, Waco, and Lubbock.
  • The City of Austin recently passed an ordinance protecting its citizens against discrimination based on the housing income source. That is, very low-income families using a Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) were experiencing discrimination from landlords who refused to rent to HCV holders.

Federal lawmakers are working to extend housing protections to marginalized groups. Landlords, property owners, and other real estate professionals must stay updated about the constantly changing laws.

ADA Regulations in Texas 

Texas accessibility standards fall in line with the national Americans with Disabilities Act. One addition Texas added to regulating accommodations in public spaces is the protection of rental houses. 

Not only do ADA laws protect residents from discrimination during the housing search process, but Texas accessibility standards also ensure that residents can safely live in their homes and access local businesses and buildings.

Under Texas housing statutes, a real estate professional cannot discriminate against anyone based on an actual or perceived disability. This includes rental activities, applying for a mortgage, selling a home, or purchasing a home.

ADA regulations in Texas protect the potential lessee or buyer and anyone with whom they might live – a family member or anyone else associated with them. 

Furthermore, landlords must make reasonable accommodations to practices, rules, or services to give disabled residents access to the same facilities and living experience as others.

Under ADA regulations in Texas, landlords cannot prevent someone from making necessary modifications to a living space because of their disability. Similarly, landlords must make public use spaces – common areas, lobbies, outdoor communal areas, and swimming pools – accessible to all residents, regardless of ability.

Businesses with more than 50 employees must designate an ADA Coordinator. This person will handle all ADA concerns and complaints from staff, clients, or other individuals.

Texas Accessibility Standards 

In 2012, the Texas legislature adopted the Texas Accessibility Standards (TAS) – guidelines for all new construction or renovations done to publicly accessible buildings in Texas.

Not all buildings are subject to these standards. Under the 2012 Texas Accessibility Standards publication, the following structures are required to meet the policies: 

  • Any public building constructed or renovated in whole or in part after January 1, 1970, if that building was constructed using state, county, or other government municipality funds
  • Emergency facilities or temporary lodging facility
  • Buildings owned or leased by a government entity, if the lease agreement went into effect on or after January 1, 1972
  • As outlined in the TAS documents, private buildings or facilities were constructed or renovated on or after January 1, 1992. These facilities include, but are not limited to:
    • Hotels, inns, and other temporary lodgings that contain more than five rooms for rent
    • Restaurants, bars, or other establishments serving food and drinks
    • Theaters, stadiums, concert halls, or other venues providing exhibition or entertainment 
    • Auditoriums, convention halls, and other areas for public gathering
    • Retail establishments, including grocery centers, clothing stores, bakeries, hardware shops, or other retail centers
    • Service facilities such as gas stations, laundromats, dry cleaners, beauty salons, funeral parlors, accountant or tax offices, law offices, healthcare facilities, or other service profession spaces
    • Any station or depot used for public transportation: bus stops, train stations, or taxi depots
    • Public parks, zoos, amusement parks, or other places of recreation
    • Museums, libraries, galleries, or other establishments of public display or collection
    • Places of education, including preschools, elementary, middle, or high schools, and higher education institutions
    • Daycare centers, senior citizens living or care facilities, homeless shelters, food banks, adoption agencies, or other social service locations
    • Places of recreation and health, including gyms, spas, swimming pools, bowling alleys, and golf courses
    • Religious centers must typically comply with the Texas Accessibility Standards, except where explicitly noted under the law

As noted above, there are some exemptions to Texas Accessibility Standards: 

  • Certain places of religious gathering or worship 
  • Parking garages constructed before April 1994 
  • Portions of residential properties meant only for residents and their guests

Archietechtal Barriers Act  

As part of the Texas Accessibility Standards, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation created the Elimination of Architectural Barriers Act. This code guides builders, construction companies, property owners, and property managers in accessibility requirements for those with disabilities.

This law aims to require public buildings to provide accessibility for those living with disabilities. Under the law, building owners and property managers must ensure their spaces are accessible to those with nonambulatory and semi ambulatory disabilities, sight disabilities, hearing disabilities, disabilities of coordination, or disabilities associated with aging.

For new construction or significant property renovations, developers are accountable to the laws outlined in the Elimination of Architectural Barriers Act. Projects are subject to initial inspection before the project and final inspection upon completion. These inspections will ensure that the project meets accessibility standards set out by the Federal ADA and the Texas Accessibility Standards.

Compliance With The Texas Accessibility Standards 

Under the TAS, new construction and renovations of existing spaces must meet accessibility guidelines. Registered accessibility specialists or contract providers must review building plans to ensure compliance no later than one year from completion.

Failure to comply with these standards is costly. First-time violations can be fined as much as $75,000, with additional violations costing $150,000. Complainants may also file lawsuits against the property owner, business, property manager, or other real estate professional.

Owners are encouraged to visit the Americans with Disabilities Act litigation page to see what not to do from past lawsuits. 

ADA Compliance in Texas 

Building owners, contractors, and builders must adhere to ADA compliance in Texas. These guidelines ensure that all new construction and renovations to public access buildings include considerations for those with physical disabilities.

These guidelines apply to:

  • Publicly-funded buildings or structures built on or after 1970 – military bases, detention centers, legislative offices, and other government institutions
  • Privately-funded construction or renovation for buildings with public access that were built or renovated on or after 1992

Penalties for failing to meet these guidelines vary. However, each day the structure fails to meet these requirements will be considered a separate penalty.

ADA and Service Animals

One area where landlords often run into trouble with the Americans with Disabilities Act is with service dogs. For tenants with disabilities, landlords must allow service animals to live on the premises, even if the property is otherwise animal-free.

Due to the rise of people claiming animals as emotional support animals to use the law as an advantage, provisions have been added. 

Landlords and business owners must allow certified service animals to accompany anyone with a disability.

According to Title II and Title III of the ADA, service animals (usually dogs) are trained to perform specific tasks for those living with a “physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” These include animals that perform tasks associated with the disability: pulling a wheelchair, alerting someone at the door, retrieving household goods, or pressing elevator buttons.

In contrast, emotional support animals – any animal providing comfort but not trained in specific tasks – are not protected under Title II and Title III of the ADA. Emotional support animals do not meet the particular needs of the disabled individual. Therefore, they do not fall under service animal protections.

Landlords and property owners, and managers are not required to allow tenants to have emotional support animals on the premises under the ADA. Likewise, business owners are not required to allow emotional support animals into their offices.

However, under the Fair Housing Act, landlords for multifamily properties or single-family homes must allow tenants to have emotional support animals. Many emotional support animals help their owners with loneliness, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and many other issues that may be considered a disability. 

In some cases, landlords must allow both service animals and emotional support animals into their properties in addition to waving all fees associated with pet policies for the property.

Make Sure Fair Housing and ADA Guidelines are Readily Achievable 

Being accused of a Fair Housing or ADA violation is serious and can be extremely costly. If a real estate professional fails to comply with these standards, the penalties can be severe.

To ensure compliance with all Fair Housing and ADA guidelines – both in Texas and other states – it’s essential to know and understand the regulations thoroughly. Fair Housing guidelines aren’t set in stone and are updated regularly. 

Since violations can be costly (tens of thousands of dollars in fines, plus potential litigation), the best option is to treat every client the same. The application process, vetting process, lending process, and customer service should be identical for each client, regardless of their background.

Sometimes what is deemed discrimination can be tricky. Here are some examples:

  • Saying a home or unit isn’t available simply because you’re unsure about the applicant 
  • Requiring higher application fees, down payments, or other terms for one applicant over another on any basis other than financial background
  • Harassment, whether overt or subtle, of any applicant, tenant, seller, or buyer
  • Steering” buyers or renters to or away from specific housing areas based on perceived biases
  • Refusal of a landlord to make reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities

FAQs about Fair Housing and ADA Requirements in Texas 

What does the fair housing act cover? 

The federal Fair Housing Act protects citizens from discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion, familial status, and disability. In Texas, these provisions include protection for pregnant women in the familial status category. 

Some local jurisdictions, including Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and Waco, have adopted additional protections for other marginalized groups. Building owners, property managers, real estate agents, and other real estate professionals should know the specific protections for their local area to prevent noncompliance.

All real estate professionals must comply with federal, state, and local laws.

Are the Fair Housing Act and ADA Laws the Same Thing?  

The Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act are different. Under the Fair Housing Act, real estate professionals cannot discriminate based on disability, protecting residents looking for a place to live.

In contrast, the ADA regulates public spaces and the provisions these businesses must provide for those with disabilities. These regulations do not apply to private housing accommodations but only to government-owned housing or public spaces.

The two laws work together to protect those living with disabilities.

To Whom do the Federal Housing and ADA Requirements Apply? 

In one word: everyone. While the Fair Housing Act and ADA laws don’t necessarily cover every marginalized group in America, they protect everyone in America. If discrimination occurs based on any of the covered classifications, the business or housing staff could be reported.

Children, teens, adults, and senior citizens are included in the Fair Housing Act and ADA laws. No one should face discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, familial status, or disability. Likewise, no one should have limited access to public spaces simply because they live with a disability.

The Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act protect those living with disabilities from discrimination. The Fair Housing Act applies mainly to renting, buying, or selling property. The ADA applies to activities outside the home, like businesses, service providers, and public transportation.

How are Texas Fair Housing Regulations Different From Federal Policies? 

Texas Fair Housing regulations largely parallel the federal protections. Some states have adopted more specific anti-discrimination policies, but Texas hasn’t strayed much from the original protections.

The only addition has been to clarify that “familial status” includes pregnant women in the Fair Housing Act. However, some local municipalities have added protections beyond those covered under Texas law.

Do some cities have different Fair Housing Laws Than Other Texas Municipalities? 

Yes. While the State of Texas hasn’t included any additional protections for marginalized groups, many cities and local municipalities have voted for stricter anti-discrimination policies.

Many local governments have added protections for members of the LGBT community and some standards to prevent discrimination based on the housing income source.

  • In 1982, Austin became one of the first cities in the nation to prohibit housing discrimination based on sexual orientation.
  • In 2000, Fort Worth added sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected classification under local housing laws.
  • Dallas updated its fair housing laws in 2002 to protect members of the LGBT community, and in 2015, the Dallas City Council expanded protections for transgender individuals.
  • In 2013, San Antonio joined many other cities, expanding fair housing protections to the LGBT community.
  • Houston became one of the largest cities in the nation to pass fair housing protections for LGBT individuals in 2014.
  • Other cities have expanded protections based on sexual orientation, including Grand Prairie, El Paso, Plano, Waco, and Lubbock.
  • The City of Austin recently passed an ordinance protecting its citizens against discrimination based on the housing income source. That is, very low-income families using a Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) experienced discrimination from landlords who refused to rent to HCV holders.

National legislators have introduced bills that would extend housing protections to other marginalized groups not covered by the Fair Housing Act. Property managers and owners should stay updated on changing laws to ensure compliance.

How are Texas ADA Laws different from federal policy? 

Texas ADA laws parallel federal protections fairly closely. However, the law clearly outlines Texas Accessibility Standards and paints a clear picture of how building owners, property managers, and other professionals must comply.

These standards require new construction and some renovations to meet specific accessibility guidelines. 

  • All government-funded structures built on or after 1970 must undergo renovation to meet these standards. 
  • Privately-funded buildings constructed on or after 1992 must also meet these requirements.

Texas utilizes registered accessibility specialists to ensure compliance who will review construction plans and approve them based on accessibility features. These specialists will also inspect a structure after renovations or construction are complete to ensure compliance.

Are there any exceptions to these laws? 

Yes. Under the Federal Fair Housing Act, these rules do not apply to single-family homes leased by the owner – property not leased by a broker. Exemptions also apply to owner-occupied homes with no more than four units and members-only or private member housing communities.

In addition, there are certain exemptions for Texas Accessibility Standards. These include some religious institutions and parking garages built before 1994. Also, renovations of privately-funded public buildings totaling less than an estimated $50,000 do not need approval from a registered accessibility specialist.

How do HUD AND The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs Enforce These Laws? 

The approach to Fair Housing and ADA enforcement is twofold. 

  1. First, there are HUD agents who pose as buyers, sellers, or renters. These agents go to housing complexes to see if there is any sign of discrimination based on demographics.
  2. Secondly, HUD and local Texas housing authorities receive violation complaints from public members. These offices thoroughly investigate each claim to ensure all citizens are treated fairly. 

If a landlord or other real estate professional violates the Fair Housing Act or the ADA, they could face severe penalties.

Penalties for ADA or Fair Housing violations vary, but those found to be non-compliant could face fees of up to $150,000. In addition, property owners, property managers, or other real estate professionals could face lawsuits from complainants.

How can I ensure I don’t violate the Fair Housing Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act as a property owner or manager? 

First and foremost, know and understand the local municipality laws. Even if an owner is familiar with federal guidelines, local housing and accessibility standards may vary. 

Knowing the laws is the best way to ensure compliance.

Secondly, contact a trusted and experienced commercial property management team in your area. The experts will ensure that property owners are always in compliance. 

What are the Texas Accessibility Standards?  

The Texas Accessibility Standards (TAS) are a set of laws passed by the legislature in 2012. The TAS outlines specific regulations for accessibility in public spaces.

The guidelines specify that any new construction, or the renovation of certain facilities, must meet stringent accessibility requirements. A registered accessibility specialist will review renovation or construction plans before work occurs to ensure compliance with these laws.

The accessibility standards cover a variety of accommodations. These include ramps, hallway widths, bathroom stall locations, and handrail placement. Other considerations include accessible parking spaces and accommodations for the visual and hearing impaired.

What is the Elimination of Archesctual Barriers Act? 

The Texas Accessibility Standards are part of the Elimination of Architectural Barriers Act.

This law aims to require public buildings to provide accessibility for those living with disabilities. Under the law, building owners and property managers must ensure their spaces are accessible to those with nonambulatory and semi ambulatory disabilities, sight disabilities, hearing disabilities, disabilities of coordination, or disabilities associated with aging.

Are service animals and emotional support animals covered under the ADA or the Fair Housing Act?  

Service animals and emotional support animals are distinctly separate under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Service animals receive extensive training and can perform specific tasks for individuals living with a disability. In contrast, the ADA views emotional support animals as an animal that provides comfort, with no training to assist. 

To that end, the ADA does not consider emotional support animals a part of protected law. Businesses and other locations governed by ADA requirements do not have to allow emotional support animals. However, they must allow service dogs to accompany their owners. Owners must also allow service animals on the property without charging a pet deposit or other associated fees.

However, under the Fair Housing Act, landlords may face different rules. The Fair Housing Act requires property owners, property managers, or landlords to make “reasonable accommodations” for anyone with a disability. In the Act, disabilities include emotional, mental, or psychiatric disabilities. To this end, an emotional support animal could be considered a “reasonable accommodation.”

Under this provision, landlords must allow tenants to have both service animals and emotional support animals. Furthermore, landlords must waive any fees associated with having pets on the property.

What can my tenant or client do if they feel they experienced discrimination?

Tenants, clients, homeowners, and homebuyers have the right to file a grievance if they feel they have experienced discrimination. If that’s the case, residents can contact the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and file a claim against the landlord, mortgage lender, seller, buyer, or other real estate professional.

Violations include any activity against the Fair Housing Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Those who wish to file violation concerns can contact the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs in Texas. Residents can also file complaints with the housing authorities in their local jurisdictions. 

Texas residents can also contact the Attorney General’s Office to file an ADA grievance. The office of the Attorney General will investigate all claims of noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Attorney General’s Office will work to resolve the issue.

At CXRE, we understand how daunting laws and regulations on commercial property can be, no matter the expert level. Our skilled staff is trained in helping our clients navigate the regulations and ensure compliance with federal, state, and local laws. Contact us today to speak with an expert or for more information on correct procedures. 

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CXRE » Commercial Real Estate Investment » Fair Housing Act, Americans with Disabilities Regulations, and Commercial Real Estate in Texas