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Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8)
Information for Persons with Disabilities

Fair Housing and People with Disabilities

Federal law gives people with disabilities the right to request reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications from both landlords and administrators of housing programs, such as NHA. These rights enable people with disabilities to take full advantage of the same housing opportunities as others. Here is an overview.

Reasonable Accommodations

A reasonable accommodation is a slight change in procedure or policy that enables a person with disabilities equal opportunity to live in and enjoy his or her dwelling unit.

Some examples of reasonable accommodations from the NHA include:

  • Providing assistance in filling out forms;

  • Giving an applicant additional time to submit required documents or complete re-certification;

  • Providing a sign language interpreter for a briefing or eligibility interview;

  • Providing documents in alternative formats such as large print, Braille or on audio cassette; and

  • Approving a two-bedroom voucher for a family consisting of one or more elderly (62+ years of age), near-elderly (at least 50 years of age, but below the age of 62), or disabled family member whose disability requires a live-in provider.
Some examples of reasonable accommodations from Owners include:
  • Giving an applicant additional time to submit his or her application and any required documentation;

  • Allowing a person to pay the rent by mail if his or her disability makes it difficult to pay the rent in person;

  • Waiving a "no pets" policy so that a person with a sight impairment can have a service animal; and

  • Permitting a single tenant who can afford the rent to move from a one- to a two-bedroom apartment to have adequate space for a live-in provider.

How to Request a Reasonable Accommodation

A person with a disability may request a reasonable accommodation at any stage of the housing rental process - when applying for rental housing, during tenancy or if threatened with eviction. Any NHA staff member can process your request. If documentation is required, the staff member will inform you.

The process of requesting a reasonable accommodation will vary from owner to owner. Some owners will consider the accommodation based on a verbal request; others may ask that you put it in writing and provide documentation of your disability.

Once you provide documentation from a physician or health care provider, owners must consider the request even if you do not "look" disabled. NHA and property owners have an affirmative duty to make a reasonable effort to accommodate people with disabilities, but they are not required to approve every request. To be considered, a request for a reasonable accommodation must be directly linked to your disability, and it must also be practical and feasible.

For example, an owner might make an exception to a "no pets" rule for a tenant with a disability who needs a guide dog or other service animal. An owner, however, would not be required to help care for the animal. The latter would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of services provided by the owner.

NOTE: A person with a disability is defined as an individual who:
  • Has a disability, as defined in 42 U.S.C. 423;

  • Is determined, pursuant to HUD regulations, to have a physical, mental, or emotional impairment that: is expected to be of long-continued and indefinite duration; substantially impedes his or her ability to live independently; and, is of such nature that the ability to live independently could be improved by more suitable housing conditions; and

  • Has a developmental disability as defined in 42 U.S.C. 6001.

  • No individual shall be considered a person with disabilities, for the purpose of eligibility for Housing Choice Voucher assistance, on the basis of any drug or alcohol dependence.

Reasonable Modifications

A reasonable modification is a physical change in a dwelling unit that enables a person with a disability to live in and fully enjoy the premises. Some examples are:
  • Flashing door bells and/or fire alarms for a person with a hearing disability;

  • Bathroom and kitchen modifications;

  • Ramps;

  • Exterior and interior motorized lifts; and

  • Protective wall plastic to prevent wheelchair damage.

How to Make Reasonable Modifications to Your Unit

In the case of reasonable modifications, the law requires owners allow the modification so long as:
  1. you pay for it;
  2. doing so does not result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of their goal or business purposes; and
  3. it does not cause undue administrative burden.
Some owners will allow you to make modifications based on verbal request; others may ask that you put it in writing and to provide documentation of your disability.

An owner may also require your contractor to comply with all necessary building and architectural codes and that the unit be left in a condition acceptable to someone who doesn't need modifications. For example, if you remove a cabinet below the bathroom sink to accommodate your wheelchair, an owner can require you to replace it when you move. However, structural changes in the unit or building that do not affect the ability of subsequent tenants to use the premises do not have to be returned to original condition. As an example, if you widen a doorway to accommodate a wheelchair, an owner cannot require you to restore the doorway.

For more information and referrals about services available to assist disabled Essex County residents, you may contact:

Essex County Office of the Disabled
50 S. Clinton Street - Suite #4300
East Orange, NJ 07018

Telephone: 973-395-8494
Fax: 973-395-3254

Note: Property owners do not have to approve every request for reasonable modifications and accommodations. They do not have to approve requests that would:
  • Impose undue financial burden;

  • Fundamentally alter their basic operation or the nature of services provided; or

  • Violate the terms of their contract or lease agreement.

Home Visits

If you are elderly or disabled and require assistance completing your paperwork for Annual Recertification, you may contact your caseworker to request a home visit from NHA Representatives.