Fair Housing Includes Individuals in Recovery and Sober Living Homes

Based on a recent issue in the Berkshires, we would like to clarify for all REALTORS that the Federal Fair Housing Act, passed in 1968 to prevent housing discrimination applies to Sober Living Homes and to individuals in recovery.  This is covered in the Americans with Disabilities Act – “ADA” as well as Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Rehab Act”).  Discrimination is treating a person less favorably/differently because of his/her protected status. REALTORS® shall not discriminate against any person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

In determining whether substance abuse would be considered a handicap, Congress first formed its intent when it adopted the Rehabilitation Act. Under the Rehabilitation Act: “[I]ndividuals who have a record of drug use or addiction but who are not currently using illegal drugs would continue to be protected if they fell under the definition of handicap…. Just like any other person with a disability, former drug-dependent persons do not pose a threat to a dwelling or its inhabitants simply on the basis of status. Depriving such individuals of housing, discriminating in any way or evicting them, would constitute irrational discrimination that may seriously jeopardize their continued recovery.  It should be noted that federal laws do not protect individuals who are currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs.

Please be very mindful of discussions or discriminatory words or actions of any kind against those in any protected class, including those recovering from addiction and the sober living homes designed to create a safe dwelling space in which to continue to live in sobriety.  There was a Public Law Journal Article that is very helpful in explaining the full context for those who want to learn more.  Alcoholism, Drug Addiction, and the Right to Fair Housing: How The Fair Housing Act Applies To Sober Living Homes By Matthew M. Gorman, Anthony Marinaccio, and Christopher Cardinale*