Know Your Rights: Long Covid, Fair Housing and Reasonable Accommodations
By Nick Adjami
June 22, 2022
As many as 23 million Americans may be experiencing long-term symptoms of Covid-19. Those symptoms can include fatigue, cognitive impairment, muscle or joint pain, depression, shortness of breath, and organ damage, and can range in severity. The Fair Housing Act includes protections for individuals with disabilities, and defines a disability to include any “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” As such, individuals experiencing “long Covid,” as it’s known, may qualify for protection under the law.
Under the Fair Housing Act, people with disabilities have the right to request “reasonable accommodations” in housing. A reasonable accommodation is a change to a rule, policy, practice, or service that provides a person with a disability equal opportunity to use and enjoy their home. Common examples include designating an accessible parking space for a tenant who uses a wheelchair, or allowing a tenant with a mental health disability to have an assistance animal in a “no pets” building.
There is no “one size fits all” accommodation that will benefit every person experiencing long Covid. Each individual’s needs will depend on their own symptoms. For example, someone experiencing difficulty breathing might request that their housing provider give them advance notice about painting or construction projects in the building. An individual experiencing depression might request that they be allowed to have an emotional support animal in a building that doesn’t allow pets. Someone experiencing both symptoms could request both.
The person requesting an accommodation may be asked to provide documentation supporting their request, such as verification of their disability or of the connection between the disability and the request. Housing providers are only allowed to request this information if the disability or the connection to the request are not obvious. Various sources can provide documentation, including doctors, nurses, caseworkers, school administrators, and advocates. A housing provider cannot require a particular form of documentation, and the requestor does not have to disclose detailed medical information, such as their diagnosis.
For more information, watch this presentation given by Susie McClannahan, the ERC’s Fair Housing Rights Program Manager. Susie spoke with community members about long Covid and fair housing in a forum hosted by the Douglass Community Land Trust. The presentation is also available in Spanish.
If you need assistance submitting a reasonable accommodation request, or if you believe you may have experienced housing discrimination, you can contact the Equal Rights Center.
If you believe you may have experienced discrimination in housing, you can contact the Equal Rights Center. To report your experience, please call 202-234-3062 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.