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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


SAFE HARBORS

What are the ten "safe harbors" for compliance with the Fair Housing Act and where can I find them?

HUD recognizes ten safe harbors for compliance with the Fair Housing Act's design and construction requirements. They are:

  1. HUD Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines published on March 6, 1991 and the Supplemental Notice to Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines: Questions and Answers about the Guidelines, published on June 28, 1994.

  2. HUD Fair Housing Act Design Manual

  3. ANSI A117.1 (1986), used with the Fair Housing Act, HUD's regulations, and the Guidelines.

  4. CABO/ANSI A117.1 (1992), used with the Fair Housing Act, HUD's regulations, and the Guidelines.

  5. ICC/ANSI A117.1 (1998), used with the Fair Housing Act, HUD's regulations, and the Guidelines.

  6. Code Requirements for Housing Accessibility 2000 (CRHA).

  7. International Building Code 2000 as amended by the 2001 Supplement to the International Codes.

  8. International Building Code 2003, with one condition*.

  9. ICC/ANSI A117.1 (2003), used with the Fair Housing Act, HUD's regulations, and the Guidelines.

  10. 2006 International Building Code® (loose leaf)

* Effective February 28, 2005 HUD determined that the IBC 2003 is a safe harbor, conditioned upon ICC publishing and distributing a statement to jurisdictions and past and future purchasers of the 2003 IBC stating, "ICC interprets Section 1104.1, and specifically, the exception to Section 1104.1, to be read together with Section 1107.4, and that the Code requires an accessible pedestrian route from site arrival points to accessible building entrances, unless site impracticality applies. Exception 1 to Section 1107.4 is not applicable to site arrival points for any Type B dwelling units because site impracticality is addressed under Section 1107.7."

Information about these safe harbors as well as HUD’s policy with respect to their use may be found in Report of HUD Review of the Fair Housing Accessibility Requirements in the 2006 International Building Code.

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Where can I find the accessibility standards for dwelling units required to be accessible under the Fair Housing Act's design and construction requirements?

The Fair Housing Act requires seven basic requirements that must be met to comply with the access requirements of the Act. Those Requirements are:

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

These requirements are stated in the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 3604(f)(3)(C). To describe these requirements in more detail, HUD published Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines (the Guidelines) on March 6, 1991, and supplemented those Guidelines with a Supplemental Notice: Questions and Answers About the Guidelines published on June 28, 1994. The Guidelines are one of eight safe harbors for compliance that HUD has identified.


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Why isn't there one uniform accessibility standard for compliance with the Fair Housing Act's design and construction requirements?

Congress did not provide statutory authority for one national uniform set of accessibility standards. Although one uniform accessibility standard is desirable, there are many ways for buildings to be built to be accessible. HUD has noted that the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standard was the design basis for the Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines, and that it is also the underlying standard for the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) and many state and local codes. Preamble to the Guidelines, 56 FR 9472, 9478-79, March 6, 1991.

HUD recognizes ten safe harbors for compliance with the design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act. They are:

  1. HUD Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines published on March 6, 1991 and the Supplemental Notice to Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines: Questions and Answers about the Guidelines, published on June 28, 1994.

  2. HUD Fair Housing Act Design Manual

  3. ANSI A117.1 (1986), used with the Fair Housing Act, HUD's regulations, and the Guidelines.

  4. CABO/ANSI A117.1 (1992), used with the Fair Housing Act, HUD's regulations, and the Guidelines.

  5. ICC/ANSI A117.1 (1998), used with the Fair Housing Act, HUD's regulations, and the Guidelines.

  6. Code Requirements for Housing Accessibility 2000 (CRHA).

  7. International Building Code 2000 as amended by the 2001 Supplement to the International Codes.

  8. International Building Code 2003, with one condition*.

  9. ICC/ANSI A117.1 - 2003 (Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities)

  10. 2006 International Building Code® (loose leaf)

* Effective February 28, 2005 HUD determined that the IBC 2003 is a safe harbor, conditioned upon ICC publishing and distributing a statement to jurisdictions and past and future purchasers of the 2003 IBC stating, "ICC interprets Section 1104.1, and specifically, the exception to Section 1104.1, to be read together with Section 1107.4, and that the Code requires an accessible pedestrian route from site arrival points to accessible building entrances, unless site impracticality applies. Exception 1 to Section 1107.4 is not applicable to site arrival points for any Type B dwelling units because site impracticality is addressed under Section 1107.7."

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If a property is built to some standard other than one of the safe harbors, can it still comply with the Fair Housing Act's access requirements?

Yes. HUD said in the Introduction to the Accessibility Guidelines, "builders and developers may choose to depart from these guidelines and seek alternate ways to demonstrate that they have met the requirements of the Fair Housing Act." The standard employed must meet all of the design and construction requirements specified in the Fair Housing Act and HUD's Fair Housing Act regulations, and provide the same or a stricter degree of accessibility than the recognized safe harbors. Fair Housing Act Design Manual, page 13. Preamble to the Guidelines, 56 FR 9478-79, March 6, 1991. The purpose of the Fair Housing Act Guidelines is "to describe the minimum standards of compliance with the specific accessibility requirements of the Act." Preamble to the Guidelines, 56 FR 9472, 9476, March 6, 1991.

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91. In a building that consists of multistory townhouses with covered multistory dwelling units that contain private internal elevators, what design specifications should apply to the private elevator?

Some of the HUD-approved safe harbors do not contain technical specifications for private residential elevators located on the interior of individual dwelling units. However, ICC/ANSI A117.1 (2003) may be consulted for specifications for such elevators. These specifications are found in ICC/ANSI A117.1 (2003) Chapter 10, Type B Dwelling Unit Section 1004.7, which in turn references Chapter 4, Accessible Routes Sections 407, 408, and 409. If using the 1986 ANSI A117.1, Section 4.10 applies. Some of the main accessible features required by ICC/ANSI A117.1-2003 are:

  • The elevator operation must be automatic. ICC/ANSI A117.1 (2003), Section 407.1, 408.1 and 409.1.
  • The elevator car must contain a 30-inch by 48-inch minimum clear floor space. ICC/ANSI A117.1 (2003), Section 407.4, 408.4, and 409.4.
  • Elevator call and control buttons must be within ANSI reach ranges. ICC/ANSI A117.1 (2003), Section 407.2.1.1, 408.2.1, and 409.2.
  • Elevators must contain emergency communication devices. ICC/ANSI A117.1 (2003), Section 407.4.6.4, 408.4.8, and 409.4.7.

For the complete technical specifications for residential elevators, consult ICC/ANSI A117.1 (2003).