New Construction Fair Housing Accessibility Requirements

The Fair Housing Act has design and construction requirements that apply to covered multifamily housing built after March 13, 1991. This includes housing that is for rent or for sale, and applies whether the housing is privately or publicly funded. Condominiums and apartment buildings are covered by the design and construction requirements and so are time-shares, dormitories, transitional housing, student housing, assisted living housing and some homeless shelters.

The following multifamily dwellings must comply:

  • All buildings containing four or more dwelling units, if the buildings have one or more elevators
  • All ground-floor units in buildings containing four or more units, without an elevator

The requirements apply to all buildings containing four or more single-story units. In buildings without elevators, only first-floor units must comply. In buildings with elevators, all units must comply. Covered housing must meet the seven design and construction requirements under the Fair Housing Act:

  1. An accessible building entrance on an accessible route
  2. Accessible public and common-use areas
  3. Usable doors (usable by a person in a wheelchair)
  4. An accessible route into and through the dwelling unit
  5. Light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls in accessible locations
  6. Reinforced walls in bathrooms for future installation of grab bars
  7. Usable kitchen and bathrooms (usable by a person in a wheelchair)

The Fair Housing Act should not be confused with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA covers public accommodations, while the Fair Housing Act covers housing. Generally, the ADA does NOT apply to residential housing. However, ADA issues arise with the accessibility of common-use areas in residential developments if the facilities are open to persons other than owners, residents and their guests (e.g. sales/rental office, pool, clubhouse and reception room). When determining what laws apply to a building, community or complex, it is important to remember that many federal, state and local codes may cover a housing project.

If you live in Philadelphia, Southeast Pennsylvania or Lehigh Valley and have questions regarding the fair housing accessibility requirements, contact, 866-540-FAIR or complete an online form.


PO BOX 558, Fort Washington, PA 19034
866-540-FAIR | 267-419-8918