Wheelchair rights tied to building's age

Rent it Right

Q: I’ve lived in my non-elevator building for a few years and now have mobility problems that require me to use a wheelchair. I’ve got a ground-level apartment, but none of the door openings are wide enough (unfortunately, I could probably get through the entryways in the upper units, but because there’s no elevator, I can’t get there). My building was constructed in 1995. My landlord says that he doesn’t have to widen the doorways because that’s an unreasonable expense. Do I have any options? –Beth F.

A: The date your building was constructed provides the answer to your question. Under the federal Fair Housing Act, buildings that were built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, must comply with the Act’s design and construction requirements. Among them is the requirement that, in non-elevator buildings, all ground-level units must meet minimum accessibility standards. This includes doorways that are wide enough to allow a wheelchair to pass through.