Fair Housing and COVID-19

Legislation | April 10, 2020 | by Linda Couch

On April 9, the National Fair Housing Alliance released a resource on COVID19 and the Fair Housing Act.

On April 9, the National Fair Housing Alliance released a resource on COVID19 and the Fair Housing Act.

The resource states that people who currently have COVID-19, those who have a history of having the virus, and those who are perceived as having the virus may be protected against housing discrimination under long-standing interpretations of the Fair Housing Act and other civil rights laws.

That is, if someone with the COVID-19 virus has limitations on their mobility or ability to care for themselves, they may have impairments that have been held to constitute a disability under the Act in other settings, the NFHA says.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords and others from asking whether an individual has a disability and from asking about the type of disability or how severe it is.

Landlords may ask a tenant or applicant to self-report about exposure or an underlying medical condition, but not about treatment, the NFHA says.

Housing providers who apply consistent policies and practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control to prevent spread of the virus are justified, as these policies and practices are designed to assume that everyone may have the virus, the NFHA says.

The NFHA's piece dovetails with HUD's April 3 statement on Fair Housing and COVID-19, reiterating the connections between COVID19, disabilities, and the Fair Housing Act.

HUD’s statement cautions providers to be aware that the Fair Housing Act and other federal laws prohibit the eviction, turning away or harassment of a person in housing because they are profiled, on the basis of race, national origin or other protected class, to be associated with COVID-19.

Regardless of specific laws, HUD notes that, “now is not the time to evict people from their homes.”

HUD also urges that, “If a housing provider is concerned that a person has COVID-19 and may pose a threat to the health or safety of others, the housing provider should set aside fear and speculation, and rely on objective medical information and advice from public health officials to determine steps that could mitigate or prevent the risk of transmission.”