Dear Susie,

My property management company has recently been making some small changes to the apartment building. For example, they’ve decreased the pressure on the doors to the public entrances and common areas, which wasn’t a big deal. But it seems like they now want to make changes to people’s units. They recently notified me that maintenance workers will be entering my unit next week to move my toilet further from the bathroom wall and lower the living room thermostat, among other things. While I don’t mind the toilet being slightly readjusted, I don’t like the intrusion in my home. I also don’t want the thermostat lowered because it’s currently at a convenient height for me. Is there anything I can do to prevent them from making the changes?

Frustrated Renter


Hi Frustrated Renter,

It sounds like your housing provider may currently be updating your building to bring it into compliance with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the design and construction standards of the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The FHA requires that most multifamily housing built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, comply with certain accessibility requirements. The purpose of this FHA provision is to make more housing available to people with physical disabilities. There is a significant shortage of accessible units both in Washington, DC, and nationwide. The FHA is playing an important role across the United States in increasing the number of housing units available to people with disabilities.

See below for a quick video that the ERC recently produced about accessibility requirements for housing. The video might help you better understand the importance of these changes and how they can actually benefit everyone.

An example of one of the accessibility requirements you mentioned is door pressure. Excessively heavy doors are difficult for some people with disabilities to open. Many common area doors cannot require more than 5 pounds of pressure to open (for reference, a typical person should be able to pull or push a door open with their pinky). By decreasing the pressure, a person with arthritis, for example, can open the door themselves, instead of requiring assistance whenever they want to enter or leave their building.

Your thermostat is likely being lowered because it is currently placed too high for a person in a wheelchair to reach it. Imagine how irritated you would be if they had put your thermostat eight feet up the wall. It would be endlessly frustrating that they had installed something in such a difficult to reach place.

The changes being made to all the units are so that individuals with disabilities can live more independently in the building and have more options when looking for a new place to call home. We are glad to hear your property manage is bringing your apartment building into FHA compliance. The minor inconvenience of them entering your apartment can mean a world of different to somebody with a disability.


The Equal Rights Center

Have a question about housing discrimination in the Washington DC metro? Want to a report a potential instance of housing discrimination? Contact Susie by calling 202-234-3062.

There are many things to consider when finding a home. Discrimination isn’t one of them.

In May 2017, The ERC launched its Fair Housing Advice Column! We know many residents in the Washington, DC metro area have unique experiences in their search for safe, affordable housing. Based on our 30 plus years of detecting discrimination, we also know that your search might leave you with questions and concerns about your rights and responsibilities.

As the only full service fair housing center in Greater Washington providing direct services and advocacy to residents, we are here to lend our expertise of local fair housing laws and protections, and to ensure your search for a home is a FAIR one.

We want to hear from you! Please reach out to us with your questions, scenarios and inquiries. We will be publishing some of your entries (anonymously) with responses from our expert fair housing staff.

For immediate information on discrimination and protected classes in the Greater Washington area, please visit our Fair Housing Page. Additionally, if you feel you have experienced or witnessed housing discrimination and would like to report it, please submit a lead here.

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