OPA: Connecticut Fair Housing Laws

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{Connecticut Fair Housing Laws}

"Connecticut Fair Housing Laws"

a P&A Self-Help Publication

 
INTRODUCTION
 
Like many states, Connecticut has its own law which provides protections to individuals with disabilities in the sale or rental of housing. This state law, known as the Discriminatory Housing Practices Act, is similar to the federal Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, but the two laws differ in several respects. There is a separate publication available from P&A which explains the federal Fair Housing Amendments Act.
Note: the term "Conn. Gen. Stat." in this booklet refers to the Connecticut General Statutes (state laws).

 

Connecticut Fair Housing Laws

 

Q. What protections are provided to people with disabilities in the sale or rental of housing?

Connecticut’s Discriminatory Housing Practices Act, (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-64c) provides individuals with disabilities, and those who associate with individuals with disabilities, protections against discrimination in the sale or rental of housing units.

 

Illegal discriminatory housing practices include:

  • refusing to rent or sell or otherwise making unavailable to an individual with a disability a dwelling unit, because of the buyer's or renter's disability; imposing different terms and conditions on the sale or rental of a dwelling unit due to the buyer's or renter's disability;
  • coercing, intimidating or threatening a person for exercising his or her rights under the Discriminatory Housing Practices Act;
  • informing an individual with a disability that a dwelling was not available for inspection, when in fact the dwelling was available;
  • discriminating against any person who associates with a person with a disability in the sale or rental of a covered dwelling unit;
  • as a disability;
  • blockbusting - that is paying someone to rent or sell a dwelling unit to another person, so as to prevent an individual with a disability from moving into a neighborhood;
  • refusing to make reasonable accommodations of rules, policies, practices or services that are needed to accommodate an individual with a disability;
  • refusing to allow a tenant with a disability to undertake reasonable structural modifications to an existing building which may be necessary to accommodate that person's disability;
  • engaging in any real estate-related transaction which promotes discrimination against an individual with a disability; and
  • denying a person with a disability access to a multiple listing service, real estate broker's organization or other related service based upon his or her disability;

Some examples of illegal behavior include:

  • asking a prospective tenant/homebuyer about his or her disability;
  • requiring tenants or others living in housing to be able to "live independently;"
  • requiring a person with a disability to pay a higher security deposit than that requested from a tenant without a disability;
  • publishing an advertisement, notice or statement which limits or excludes individuals with disabilities from renting or purchasing a dwelling;
  • denying housing due to a present or past history of a mental illness;
  • asking a prospective tenant about illegal drug use or illegal drug convictions unless those questions are asked of all prospective tenants;
  • discriminating based upon a lawful source of income such as a state or federal housing subsidy or receipt of of social security benefits.

Q. Are all housing units in Connecticut covered by the anti-discrimination laws?

Connecticut law covers almost all types of housing, including apartment complexes, condominiums, and other similar multi-family structures. Housing not covered under the state Discriminatory Housing Practices Act includes rooms for rent in owner-occupied single family dwelling units and rental of units in owner-occupied two-family dwelling units. However, there may be exceptions to these rules so always call an expert to ask about housing discrimination, even if you think the building may not be covered.

Q. Who is protected from discrimination by Connecticut's Discriminatory Housing Practices Act?

Connecticut law provides protections for individuals with disabilities who:

  • have a "physical or mental disability" including mental retardation [as defined in Conn. Gen. Stat. § 1-1(g)];
  • have a chronic physical disability, infirmity, or impairment either congenital or resulting from a bodily injury, organic processes or changes from an illness [as defined in Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-51(15)];
  • meet the definition of disability in the federal Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (FHAA).

Under federal law, a disability is defined as:

  • a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
  • a record of having such an impairment;
  • being regarded as having such an impairment.

"Major life activity" includes, but is not limited to, hearing, seeing, working, learning, breathing, caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, speaking, etc. A specific disability label (e.g., cerebral palsy) is not as important in determining whether a person has a disability as how the condition affects the individual’s functioning in society. The major life activity that is limited must be affected for a long period of time or to a great degree. In other words, a short term condition like a sprained ankle is generally not considered a disability.

The state law does not specifically exclude any individual from its coverage. The federal Fair Housing Amendments Act does, however, exclude individuals from protection who are currently using illegal drugs, individuals connected with the illegal manufacture of a controlled substance, and individuals who are a direct threat to themselves or others.

Q. What does the term "reasonable accommodation" mean?

Housing providers must make reasonable accommodations so that people with disabilities can

live in and enjoy housing. A reasonable accommodation is a change in a rule, a policy or a practice of the housing provider that is necessary to allow a person with a disability equal enjoyment of his/her dwelling. Usually the cost of reasonable accommodations are minimal. Some examples of reasonable accommodations include:

  • a landlord waiving a "no pet" policy to allow guide dogs or service animals;
  • designating a parking space for a tenant with a disability; providing a taped copy of a condominium association's newsletter to accommodate a tenant with a visual disability;
  • providing sign language interpreters at condo association meetings;
  • the change to any other policy or rule which denies a person with a disability equal access to a residential structure or service.

Q. How can I get a reasonable accommodation?

If a tenant, homebuyer or other home seeker needs a reasonable accommodation, he or she may request it from the housing provider. A tenant or other person living in housing can request the accommodation at any time, even after a tenancy or other housing arrangement has begun. The tenant or other person living in housing should start by writing a letter explaining what change inrules, policies or procedures are needed and include a letter from a professional which documents the disability and why the accommodation is needed. If you need help requesting a reasonable accommodation, you can call any of the agencies listed at the end of the brochure.

Q. Do housing providers have to make modifications to the housing unit for someone  who is physically disabled?

In general, housing providers do not have to make reasonable modifications to a housing unit. Such modifications might involve widening doors, installing a ramp, repositioning counters or cabinets, installing grab bars in a bathroom, or the acquisition of assistive technology in order to accommodate a tenant's needs. Housing providers who receive money from the federal government to subsidize their properties or pay for renovations or repairs are required to pay for reasonable modifications. Check with your local fair housing agency for more information on this.

However, a housing provider, and this includes condominium associations, must permit you to make reasonable modifications to your unit at your own expense. The owner of the unit can insist that you restore the interior of the premises to the original condition which existed prior to the modifications, if such modifications affect the marketability of the unit.

Q. How do I enforce my rights?

If you think your state fair housing rights have been violated, do not delay. You have 180 days from the date of the alleged discrimination to file a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO). You should contact a regional CHRO office to schedule an appointment (see page 12). Be certain that you have all relevant information including names, addresses, dates, written documents, requests for reasonable accommodations, responses to your request for a reasonable accommodation, advertisements, witnesses or any other documentation which could support your claim of discrimination. The CHRO intake worker will prepare a complaint affidavit for your signature based on the information that you provide in your complaint.

The CHRO will assign the complaint to an investigator who will investigate any related information necessary to make a determination on the scope of the investigation. If the complaint is found by the CHRO Investigator to lack merit (i.e., not enough evidence to support complaint, or the complaint issue is not covered in state law) then the complaint will be dismissed. You will be notified of your post-dismissal rights to request reconsideration or appeal to court.

In contrast, should the CHRO Investigator find the complaint has sufficient merit, the CHRO will investigate it further. As part of this process, the CHRO may attempt to settle the complaint through mediation or conciliation. This would involve getting all parties together to see if the issue can be addressed without a formal investigation.

If the case is not settled, the CHRO will conduct a review to determine whether a reasonable cause finding can be issued. Reasonable cause exists when the investigator has sufficient evidence to believe that the discriminatory act may have occurred, or when the response from the alleged discriminator is insufficient to fully answer the complaint allegations. If the CHRO issues a reasonable cause finding, the case will be assigned for a formal hearing before a Human Rights Referee. If the investigator does not find reasonable cause, the complaint will be dismissed and you will be advised of your post-dismissal rights.

At the hearing stage, the person filing the complaint has the burden of proving the allegation of housing discrimination. The State Attorney General may furnish an attorney to represent the State of Connecticut's interests in eliminating housing discrimination when your case goes before a Human Rights Referee. However, that attorney's legal representation may or may not coincide with the objectives and remedies that you are seeking. Therefore, it may be advisable for you to retain an attorney to represent you at the hearing. If you prevail (win) at the hearing stage and the CHRO a Human Rights Referee finds that you were a victim of housing discrimination, you may receive:

  • an order awarding damages,
  • an order requiring the housing provider to grant you the reasonable accommodation you requested;
  • a cease and desist order directing a landlord, agent or provider to stop the discriminatory housing practice;
  • reimbursement of expenses for obtaining alternate housing,
  • reimbursement for storage of goods, moving costs,
  • reimbursement for any other costs related to the discriminatory act,
  • reimbursement for costs related to the public hearing (e.g., cost of expert testimony) and
  • a reasonable attorney's fee.

If you, or any other party to the CHRO administrative proceedings, are dissatisfied with the decision of the Human Rights Referee, you may file a petition with the Superior Court. In order to be timely, you must submit the appeal to the CHRO and file it in Superior Court within forty-five (45) days from the date of the CHRO's final decision. It is advisable to consult with an attorney about the merits of an appeal.

If the CHRO order is not being implemented by the housing entity, state law authorizes the CHRO to file a petition in the Superior Court seeking appropriate temporary relief or a restraining order.

As an alternative to the above-described administrative complaint process, a person may file a lawsuit directly to the Superior Court within one (1) year of the alleged discriminatory housing practice, provided the CHRO has not commenced the public hearing or negotiated a settlement of the complaint. The relief available from the Superior Court is similar to the relief that a CHRO Human Rights Referee could provide in the public hearing.

Related State Issues

State Building Code

If you believe that your dwelling unit was not constructed in accordance with the applicable state building code, in particular the accessibility provisions in effect since 1975, you can contact the local building official in your town and file a complaint. You may also contact the State Building Inspector's Office at (860) 685-8310. Finally, you may also have a claim under the Connecticut Discriminatory Housing Practices Act and can file a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities by following the procedure outlined on page 8.

State Assisted Housing

State law (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-271) requires that any state assisted rental housing or rental housing project constructed or substantially rehabilitated on or after January 1, 1976 containing ten or more dwelling units, shall have at least ten percent (10%) of the units and all common use areas and facilities accessible to and useable by residents with physical disabilities. Finally, you may also have a claim under the Connecticut Discriminatory Housing Practices Act and can file a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities by following the procedure outlined on page 8.

Real Estate Agents

If you believe that a real estate agent has deprived you of your fair housing rights in the sale or rental of a covered dwelling unit, you may file an administrative complaint against that agent with the Department of Consumer Protection’s Real Estate Division, 165 Capitol Avenue, Hartford, CT 06106, Phone: (860) 713-6300, toll free: 1-800-842-2649.

Finally, you may also have a claim under the Connecticut Discriminatory Housing Practices Act and can file a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities by following the procedure outlined on page 8.

Housing Resources

If you want help in understanding the Fair Housing laws, or if you need information or advice on rights or whether to take legal action to remedy housing discrimination, you may contact:

Fair Housing Association of Connecticut, 253 Main Street, Ansonia, CT  06401, (203) 736-5930 (Voice) (serving all of Connecticut).

Connecticut Fair Housing Center, 221 Main Street, Hartford, CT 06106 - Phone (860) 247-4400; and 171 Orange Street, New Haven, CT 06510; Phone: (203) 772-3247; toll free; 1(888)247-4401 (serving all of Connecticut).

State Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities: 60-B Weston Street, Hartford, CT 06120-1551 - Phone: (860) 297-4300 (Voice); (860) 297-4380 (TTY); and 1 (800) 842-7303 (voice and TTY – Toll Free, Connecticut only).

Statewide Legal Services, Inc.: (860) 344-0380 (Central Connecticut/Middletown area); and 1 (800) 453-3320 (toll-free, all other regions)

 

Greater Hartford Legal Assistance

(Greater Hartford area)

999 Asylum Avenue

Hartford, CT 06106

(860) 541-5000

 

New Haven Legal Assistance

(Greater New Haven area)

426 State Street

New Haven, CT 06510

(203) 946-4811 (voice and TTY)

 

Filing a Fair Housing Complaint: If you believe that you have been a victim of housing discrimination, or denied rights in the sale or rental of housing in Connecticut, you may contact the following agencies to file a complaint:

 

Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities (CHRO)

21 Grand Street

Hartford CT 06101

Phone: (860) 541-3403

toll free: 1 (800) 477-5737

 

U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD)

Office of Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity

Boston Federal Office Building

10 Causeway Street

Boston, MA 02222-1092

Phone: (617) 994-8335

HUD Toll-Free Complaint Hotline: 1 (800) 827-5005

 

HUD can assist you in filing a complaint under the Fair Housing Act Amendments of 1988, as well as a complaint under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, if the landlord or building owner receives federal financial assistance.

 

Other resources:

Corporation for Independent Living

30 Jordan Lane

Wethersfield, CT 06109

(860) 563-6011 (Hartford area)

or 1 (800) 755-6011 (Statewide)

This agency administers a grant program in addition to the "Loan for Accessibility" program to provide loans to individuals who need to install fixtures and other improvements to make a residential dwelling unit accessible and useable by an individual with a disability.

 

The Connecticut Tech Act Project

The Tech Act Project may be of assistance, if assistive technology devices and services are required to make a residential dwelling unit accessible to and useable by an individual with a disability. For more information, contact the Peer Assistive Technology Counselor at the following independent living centers:

 

Disabilities Network of Eastern CT

238 West Town Street

Norwich, CT 06360

(860) 823-1898 (Voice/TTY)

 

Independence Northwest

1183 New Haven Road

Suite 200

Naugatuck, CT 06770

(203) 729-3299 (Voice) - (203) 729-1281 (TTY)

 

Center for Disability Rights

764 Campbell Avenue

West Haven, CT 06516

(203) 934-7077 (Voice) - (203) 934-7078 (TTY)

 

Independence Unlimited

151 New Park Avenue

Hartford, CT 06106

(860) 523-5021 (Voice) - (860) 523-7991 (TTY)

 

Disability Resource Center of Fairfield County

80 Ferry Boulevard

Stratford, CT 06497

(203) 378-6977 (Voice); (203) 378-3248 (TTY)

 

For Assistive Technology Act information, referrals, or advocacy, contact:

Office of Protection and Advocacy

for Persons with Disabilities

60-B Weston Street

Hartford, CT 06120

(860) 297-4300 (Voice)

1 (800) 842-7303 (Toll Free, voice and TTY – CT only)

(860) 297-4380 (TTY only)

For additional information on how the anti-discrimination laws work for people with disabilities, see "The Joint Statement of The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice on Reasonable Accommodations Under the Fair Housing Act." It can be found at: http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/housing/final8_1.htm  

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Content Last Modified on 4/8/2011 12:49:52 PM